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Copyright, 1941, by Virginia S, Cowles 
Printed in the United States of America 

All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any 
manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations 
embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Harper & Brothers. 




Prologue ix 


I. Trip to War 3 

IL High Explosives 12 

HI. The Press 18 

IV. Life in Madrid 26 

V. Civilian Army 37 

VI. Exit Visa 49 


I. Frontier Interlude 55 

II. The Fall of Santander 62 

III. Salamanca 71 

IV. March Through the North 80 


I. London 97 

II. The Policy of Appeasement 1 10 

HI. Dress Rehearsal in Czechoslovakia 1 16 

IV. Who Wants a War? 1 24 


I. The Candles Start to Flicker 133 

II. German Merry-Go-Round 141 

III. The War That Didn't Happen 154 

IV. Death by Strangulation 164 
V. Neville Chamberlain 180 


I. Introduction to Russia 193 

II. Shadow Over the Kremlin 199 

III. Water, Water, Everywhere 208 



IV. The Leopard Changes Its Spots 214 

V. Notes on the Ukraine 221 


I. England Awakes 237 

II. Roman Holiday 244 

HI. Last Hours in Berlin 255 

IV. Polish Tragedy Second-hand 267 

V. The "Bore" War 274 


I. The Sky That Tumbled Down 283 

II. Dead Alan's Land 292 

III. The Best Arctic Circles 302 

IV. The Twilight 312 
V. Flags at Half-mast 324 


I. Spring-time is Hitler-time 335 

II. Roman Candles Burning at Both Ends 341 

III. God Is English 354 

IV. The Last Twenty-four Hours of Paris 363 
V. The Beginning of the End 375 

VI. Sorry Separation at Bordeaux 384 


I. No Hour Was Finer Than This 397 

II. Per Ardua ad Astra 403 

III. Heigho, London Bridge Is Standing 414 

IV. Invasion Week-end 427 
V. Only United Will We Stand 435 


ON that November evening (Armistice Night), the three men 
at the head of Great Britain, the United States and France seemed 
to be the masters of the world. Behind them stood vast communi- 
ties organized to the last point, rejoicing in victory and inspired 
with gratitude and confidence for the chiefs who had led them 
there. In their hands lay armies of irresistible might, and fleets 
without whose sanction no vessel crossed the sea upon or beneath 
the surface. There was nothing wise, right and necessary which 
they could not in unity decree. And these men had been drawn 
together across differences of nationality and interest and across 
distances on land and sea by the comradeship of struggle against 
a dreaded foe. Together they had reached the goal. Victory abso- 
lute and incomparable was in their hands. What would they 
do with it? 

"THE WORLD CRISIS: The Aftermath" 
Winston S. Churchill March, 1929 


can hear the drone of German bombers. The streets are deserted, 
but every now and then the stillness is broken by the wracking ex- 
plosions of the guns. 

On nights like this you wonder if future historians will be able 
to visualize the majesty of this mighty capital; to picture the strange 
beauty of the darkened buildings in the moonlight; the rustle of the 
wind and the sigh of bombs; the long white fingers of the search- 
lights and the moan of shells travelling towards the stars. Will they 
understand how violently people died: how calmly people lived? 

Long ago Britons set out to master the sea for fear it would im- 
prison them on their island. To-day the same sea holds them secure 
against their enemies, and, so long as the great water highways re- 
main in their control, their land can be attacked only from the air. 

So far, the air has not proved decisive. The terror of the night- 
bomber is combated by the robust spirit of the people, and the 
accuracy of the day-bomber destroyed by the fierce onslaught of 
the Royal Air Force. 

The air battles fought over the English coast have been more 



spectacular than any battles history has seen before. When German 
planes, in mass formation, approached the cliffs of Dover they were 
met by a shattering barrage of anti-aircraft fire, and then by the 
swift, angry whine of fighters. Many of these battles were fought 
over the sea. I have often stood in the sunshine on top of Shakespeare 
cliff, a mile from the town, and watched the twisting, turning planes 
with a feeling of unreality. Somehow it was always difficult to grasp 
that these were the actual combats on which civilization depended; 
that although modern armies were counted in terms of millions, the 
sea had immobilized their strength and the issue was being decided 
by a handful of men above. 

Of all the days I spent at Dover I remember August 1 5th the best. 
On this day the Royal Air Force shot down a record number of 
one hundred and eighty planes. I drove down from London with 
Vincent Sheean and from the cliff we tried to piece the drama to- 
gether like a jigsaw puzzle. In almost the whole range of the sky 
there was action. To the right we could see a plane falling like a 
stone into the sea, leaving a long black plume against the sky; to the 
left, one of the great silver balloons in flames; and directly above, a 
fighter, diving down on one of the bombers and suddenly a tiny 
fluttering parachute as one of the pilots baled out; and all the time 
the crackling noise of the anti-aircraft guns' fire and the white bursts 
of smoke against the sky. 

During one of these battles I looked through a pair of fieldglasses 
at a small trawler anchored in the harbour below. The crew had 
evidently accepted the fierce encounters above them as part of their 
daily routine, for no one was paying much attention. One of the men 
was lying on the deck fast asleep; another was doing his washing, 
and a third was reading a paper. A few hours later the little trawler 
hoisted up its flag, got up steam, and went paddling nonchalantly 
down the Channel. It had an arrogant air as though it were saying: 
"Hands off; this sea is ours." 

We watched the battle for some time, then Vincent turned to me 
and said, "It's funny to think all this business started down there." 
He nodded towards the mists. 

"Down there?" 

"In Spain." 


Undoubtedly future historians will puzzle over the lessons that 
were never learned from the first world war; they will shake their 
heads that the three great democracies refused to join hands and ac- 
cept their responsibilities as the guardians of world peace. They will 
trace the causes of the present conflagration to the breakdown of the 
League of Nations, pointing to Manchuria in 1931 and Abyssinia in 
1935. But they will have to turn to Spain in 1936 for the first rumble 
of gunfire to break the stillness of the European continent; and it 
is in Spain that my story begins. 

I saw the villages of Spain burning and followed the flames across 
the map of Europe. They spread upwards, scorching the woods of 
Bohemia, ravaging the plains of Poland, and even searing the ice- 
bound forests of the Arctic. Then the evil winds of conquest blew 
them to Norway. They swept through Holland and Belgium and 
burnt the rich fields of France black, so that now there is no life 

The part I have seen is small in the picture history will record, but 
it has shown me that the war to-day is not only an issue between 
nations. It is a struggle to keep justice and mercy on the earth, and 
to preserve the very dignity of man. 

LONDON, May, 1941. 

I wish to thank the Sunday Times (London) for 
the opportunity it has given me to travel about 
Europe looking for trouble when and where I 
pleased: unhappily, it has not been hard to find. 

Part One 


Chapter I 



recall a number of things: that the Normandie beat the record for 
the Atlantic crossing; that King Leopold visited London; that Neville 
Chamberlain succeeded Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister of Eng- 
land; that the lost diary of Dr. Samuel Johnson was found; that 
Queen Marie of Roumania was gravely ill; and that Noel Coward 
was resting. 

You will also read that General Franco launched an offensive. On 
March loth the newspapers reported that he had broken through the 
Madrid defences and on the following day the correspondent of the 
London Daily Telegraph wrote: 

The Nationalists have advanced eighteen miles in two days. They are 
now fifteen miles from Guadalajara. The defenders of Madrid realize that 
the battle of Guadalajara will decide the fate of the capital. 

A few days later the story began to trickle out and the world 
learned that not only was Madrid still standing, but that Franco's 
Italian Legionaries had broken and fled, and the Nationalist offensive 
had been turned into the first (and what proved to be the last) major 
victory for the Republic. 

It was a week after the battle of Guadalajara that I made my first 
trip to Spain. I stood at the Toulouse aerodrome at five-thirty in the 
morning waiting for an aeroplane to take me to Valencia. It was 
pitch black and bitterly cold. The frost on the ground shimmered 
through the darkness like a ghostly shroud, and the small red bulbs 
outlining the airfield had an eerie glow. My heart began to sink at 
the prospect of the trip. 



I had no qualifications as a war correspondent except curiosity. 
Although I had travelled in Europe and the Far East a good deal, and 
written a number of articles, mainly for the March of Events section 
of the Hearst newspapers, my adventures were of a peaceful nature. 
In fact, after a twelve-months' trip from London to Tokio in 1934, 
I had written an article for Harper's Bazaar which soon dated sadly. 
It was entitled: "The Safe, Safe World." 

When the war broke out in Spain, I saw an opportunity for more 
vigorous reporting; I thought it would be interesting to cover both 
sides and write a series of articles contrasting the two. I persuaded 
Mr. T. V. Ranck of the Hearst newspapers that this was a good 
proposition and happily set off for Europe. I knew no one in Spain 
and hadn't the least idea how one went about such an assignment, 
so waited until reaching Paris before mapping out a plan of cam- 
paign. And then the battle of Guadalajara took place. I read about 
the heroic resistance of beleaguered Madrid, and decided that Madrid 
was obviously the place to go. 

Friends in Paris were not encouraging. They warned me if I 
didn't dress shabbily I would be "bumped off" in the streets; some 
suggested men's clothes; others rags and tatters. I finally took three 
wool dresses and a fur jacket. 

They also filled me with atrocity stories and gloomily predicted 
that if I was not shot down on the flight to Valencia I would surely 
be bombed on the road to Madrid. I had paid no attention to their 
forebodings, but now, as I stood on the aerodrome, a procession of 
terrible pictures filtered through my mind. I went into the waiting- 
room to have a cup of coffee and took comfort from the fact that no 
one seemed impressed by the imminent departure of a plane for the 
perils of "war-torn" Spain. There were only a half-dozen people 
in the room; some reading yesterday's evening papers, some sleeping 
with their heads on the tables. It was so cold the French mechanics 
were pacing up and down, stopping every now and then to warm 
their hands over a small stove. At last the door opened and a man 
announced the plane was ready to leave. I paid my bill, and as I got 
up an old man in a black beret who had been sitting quietly by the 
fire walked over to me, clasped my hand, and in a voice trembling 


with emotion said: "Bonne chance, mademoiselle, bonne chance" I 
stepped into the aeroplane with a feeling of doom. 

It took us only an hour to reach Barcelona. Most of it was spent in 
flying over the Pyrenees. The mountains were covered with snow 
and at first they looked grey and remote; then the dawn came up 
and they were swept with a fiery pink. When we circled down to a 
landing and I walked into the air port waiting-room, I remember the 
surprise I felt at my first picture of Spain. The scene was so peaceful 
it was almost incongruous. A woman sat behind the counter knitting 
a sweater, two old gentlemen in black corduroy suits were at a 
table drinking brandy, and a small girl sprawled on the floor with 
a cat. They greeted the French pilots cordially, but when the latter 
commented on the war and asked for the latest news, one of the old 
men shrugged his shoulders uninterestedly, and said: "This war has 
nothing to do with Catalonia. We don't want any part of it; all we 
want is to be left alone." 

We had a cup of coffee, our baggage was inspected by an indiffer- 
ent Customs officer, and an hour later we were in Valencia. 

Valencia was a mass of swarming humanity. It was the temporary 
seat of the Government and its population of four hundred thousand 
had swollen to over a million. People poured through the streets, 
crowded the squares, clustered the doorways, thronged the beaches 
and flowed endlessly through the markets, to the shops and cafes. 
Everything was noise and confusion. Horse-drawn carts clattered 
over the cobble-stones and automobiles, with official stickers pasted 
on the wind-shields, raced dangerously down the main thorough- 
fares honking their horns wildly. The buildings were plastered with 
garish posters showing the mangled bodies of women and children 
and inscribed with the single word: "Fascism!" Down the street a 
gramophone blared out gaily: "I can't give you anything but love, 

I was deposited at the Air France office on the main street and re- 
garded the scene with bewilderment. I asked the way to the best 
hotel and the clerk told me a mile or so "down the road." It was 
impossible to get a porter or a taxi. I only had one suitcase and a 
typewriter, so I started to walk. All the people on the streets were 
working-class people and everyone was dressed in black: the women 


wore black cotton dresses and shawls over their heads, and the men 
black suits and berets. Some of them paused to stare darkly at me and 
at first I thought it was because I was the only person wearing a hat; 
then I suddenly realized that the red and yellow bands painted inad- 
vertently on my suitcase were General Franco's colours. 

A street car came by and I climbed on nervously, but I had to get 
off at the next stop for I had no Spanish money and I couldn't make 
the conductor understand that by accepting a ten-franc note he was 
driving a good bargain. 

I finally reached the Hotel Bristol and found it packed. People 
were even sleeping in armchairs in the lobby. I left my bags and went 
into the dining-room for lunch. The restaurant was crowded with a 
strange assortment of characters: few of them looked like Spaniards 
and I later learned that this was the Valencia backwash business 
men, agents provocateurs, social workers, spies and racketeers. I asked 
the waiter if any American or English correspondents were staying 
in the hotel, and he told me Mr. Kennedy of the Associated Press 
was sitting at a table across the room. I sent him a note telling him 
of my predicament and asking him to help me. 

Mr. Kennedy was a tough young American reporter, with an 
efficiency for which I was deeply thankful. Within an hour he had 
browbeaten the manager of the hotel into finding me a room, and 
introduced me to the Foreign Press chief, who arranged for me to 
go to Madrid by car in two days' time. 

I remember pressing Kennedy with questions about the war, and 
in order to have a place to talk we took a dilapidated carriage and 
drove around the town. It was pleasant on the outskirts; the crowds 
thinned out, the Mediterranean stretched peacefully before us, and, 
in the fields behind, long rows of orange-trees glowed in the sun. 
I was at a loss to understand how much of the general confusion of 
Valencia was due to the war, how much to the revolution, and how 
much to Spain. 

"All three," said Kennedy. "God, how I wish I were back in the 

I told him I thought Spain was exciting and he gave me a sour 

"Listen, sister, I'm too fed up with red tape and censorship trouble 


and not even a healthy American cigarette to smoke or a decent- 
looking dame to take out to dinner, to think of this any longer as 
a great big adventure. You'll learn." 

I must have looked crestfallen for a moment later he added: "Of 
course, Madrid isn't so bad. You get shelled every day and the food's 
rotten, but at least there's something to do besides arguing with a 
bunch of people who only know how to say manana. There are lots 
of correspondents there and you can get out to the front when you 
want and see some action. Not like this burg; half of them don't 
even know there's a war on." 

I had noticed that the squares of Valencia were filled with young 
men of military age who seemed to have nothing better to do than 
stand in the sunshine picking their teeth. With the war at a critical 
stage it seemed strange, and Kennedy replied that as Valencia hadn't 
yet been attacked (the port had occasionally been shelled from the 
sea but that was all), many of the people regarded the war as a local 
affair confined exclusively to Madrid. We drove past the beach and 
saw three gendarmes threading they way through the crowds; every 
now and then they stopped and questioned a group of men and 
scribbled in their note-books. Kennedy explained that this was the 
usual method of rounding up loafers for the army. 

That night we had dinner at the hotel with Captain "Pinky" 
Griffiss, the American air attache, and two French aviators known 
only as "Jean" and "Henri." They were the black sheep of respect- 
able French families. 

Professional pilots were highly paid by the Spanish Government 
and they had joined up to earn enough money to pay off their 
gambling debts. They spent the evening regaling us with their ex- 
ploits at the battle of Guadalajara. I later learned their activities 
were confined to patrol work over Valencia and the stories purely 
imaginary. Nevertheless, they were good company and the next day 
we all went to the bull-fight. 

The bull-ring was in the centre of the town and it shone in the 
sunshine like a huge half grape-fruit. It was noisy and crowded and 
the air was heavy with sweat and the rich smell of tobacco. There 
was none of the picturesque elegance of former days, for the crowd 
was a drab sweep of black, sprinkled with the khaki of the militia. 


The matador, however, wore the traditional tri-cornered hat, the 
pink stockings and buckled shoes, and an elaborate but shabby blue- 
brocaded uniform. He received a loud ovation and the show was on, 

I had never seen a bull-fight before and the sight of the bull paw- 
ing the ground with the blood streaming down his sides was nauseat- 
ing to me. Most of the time I couldn't look. The small, dark Spaniard 
next to me complained loudly but not for the same reason. He ex- 
plained that the fight was no good because the big bulls were bred 
in the south and the south belonged to Franco. "Curse the war," he 
grumbled, "and look at that matador. He ought to be fighting a cow." 

The matador was clumsy and the crowd booed; hats and orange- 
peels sailed into the ring. Then a drunken militiaman climbed over 
the fence, careened into the arena and grabbed the cape from the 
matador. The latter shouted angrily at him and indignant officials 
ran out to drag him back. But before they could reach him he gave 
an expert flip of the cloth and sent the bull charging after them. They 
fled for the safety of the barrier and the crowd screamed with de- 

For twenty minutes the militiaman fought the bull. Five times the 
officials tried to pull him back and five times he sent the animal snort- 
ing after them. Suddenly the bull charged him. Its right horn hooked 
the soldier's belt and lifted him high in the air. The crowd rose 
breathless but the man was unhurt. His belt broke and he went 
sprawling to the ground while the bull thundered across the ring. 
This gave the officials their chance to drag him back. He held his 
trousers up with one hand and protested comically with the other, 
but he was returned to his seat in the midst of wild applause. Even 
the disgruntled Spaniard on my right felt he'd had his money's 

Early on Monday morning I left for Madrid in a small car packed 
with boxes of food, sweets and cigarettes. It was driven by a Spanish 
anarchist chauffeur, and the other passengers were an American 
woman, Mellie Bennett (who worked in the propaganda depart- 
ment), and a Catholic priest. 

I was astonished by the presence of a priest in a community bit- 


terly hostile to the Church, and wondered why he was free. He was 
an old man, with a sly face and fingers stained yellow by nicotine. 
He hadn't driven far before he opened a polite conversation in bad 

"You, I presume, are an anarchist?" 

"No," I said. 

"A communist?" 


"A Trotskyist?" 

Here Mellie Bennett intervened. "Tell the old devil to shut up." 

I was afraid he could understand, but she said she had crossed his 
track before and he didn't speak any English. "I know the old hum- 
bug: he's a show piece. He goes around France doing propaganda 
lectures saying the priests are well treated in Republican Spain. 
He's made a packet." 

Mellie Bennett had a monkey-like face and wore thick horn- 
rimmed spectacles. She had a strong provocative personality and I 
liked her at once. She had come from Moscow, where she had 
worked for several years on the Moscow Daily News. She had left- 
wing convictions, but on this particular morning her outlook was 
sour and she criticized conditions freely. 

"Look at this road," she said. "It ought to be crowded with trucks 
taking food up to Madrid, but a fat lot the politicians care." 

The narrow asphalt road wound for miles through a barren, rolling 
countryside. The railroads that led from the coast to Madrid had 
been bombed, and now this was the only line of communication 
linking the capital with the outside world. There were few cars on 
the road and during the whole two hundred miles to Madrid we 
counted only twenty trucks. This was due partly to lack of petrol, 
but, as I later learned, also to lack of organization. 

About a hundred miles from Valencia we stopped at a small village 
and went into a restaurant for lunch. The room was dark and a 
frowsy woman in a blue dress flicked dead flies and pieces of bread 
off the table with a cloth. She gave us an omelette, bread and wine. 

The anarchist chauffeur sat down at the same table and the Cath- 
olic priest patted him on the back and said he was a good boy; he 
had been wounded fighting on the Aragon front. He had a bullet- 


hole in his thigh and it hadn't yet healed, but as soon as he was well 
enough he was going back to the front. Mellie Bennett explained (in 
English that neither could understand) that he had fought with an 
anarchist regiment which had gone to war with no officers. Most of 
them had been wiped out. 

The anarchists were opposed to organisation of any kind. They 
believed that people, left to themselves, were instinctively good, but 
that an organized society always resulted in evil. Hence they had 
gone into battle with no leaders. We soon had an example of this 
idealistic but impractical creed for a few miles farther along the 
road we passed a car that had run out of petrol. Our chauffeur 
stopped and obeyed his good instincts by funnelling off some of our 
petrol. The result was that an hour later our car gave a nasty cough 
and we were in the same predicament. Mellie said: "Now, do you 
understand the philosophy? We simply wait for another anarchist 
to come along." 

We sat by the roadside in the hot sun for nearly an hour. A "com- 
rade" finally appeared, gave us some petrol and once more we were 
on our way. 

The priest was consumed with curiosity about my political faith 
and once again made an attempt to tabulate my views. This time he 
tried to wheedle them out. "Perhaps you have, let us say, Trotskyist 
leanings? It is impossible to be nothing; no one comes to Spain with- 
out an idee fixe . . ." 

Mellie cut into his conversation again and he finally lapsed into 

About forty miles from Madrid we were stopped by sentries who 
told us we would have to branch off on a side road and swing around 
by the village of Alcala de Henares. The main road to Madrid was 
under enemy fire from this point on. It was growing dark and we 
were warned to be careful about our lights. The country roads were 
bad, but fortunately there was a new moon which helped a little. 

At nine o'clock we swung down the Gran Via, Madrid's main 
thoroughfare. The city was blacked out and the streets were de- 
serted and still. The silence was oppressive and there was a strange 
atmosphere of foreboding. Suddenly the quiet was broken by the 


distant rumble of artillery. I had never heard the sound of war before 
and my heart beat fast. 

The others were unperturbed, and when we reached the Hotel 
Florida, Mellie went inside to get a porter to carry out the food. 
While she was gone the priest bent down quickly, slit open one of the 
packages with a penknife and stole three packages of Chesterfield 
cigarettes. He smiled at me, put a yellow-stained finger over his lips, 
and said: "Shhh!" 


Chapter II 



me as an amateur; knowledgeable people lived as close to the ground 
as possible as a precaution against aerial bombs. The hotel was 
crowded, however, so the best the manager could do was to switch 
me to a large outside room on the fourth floor; but this, too, had its 
disadvantages. It faced a broad square and overlooked a jumble of 
grey roof -tops that dwindled into a distant landscape of rolling green 
hills. And these hills belonged to the enemy. Although this placed 
me in the direct line of shell-fire, the desk clerk refused to let me 
move. He said the inside rooms were dark and stuffy, and, besides, 
the hotel was not a military objective, so if a shell went through my 
room it would only be a mistake. 

Madrid, dark and gloomy at night, was transformed into a new 
world with the daylight. The sun was shining and the air resounded 
with the clatter of humdrum business. I leaned out of the window 
to find the square thronged with people. Khaki-clad militiamen with 
red ties around their necks threaded their way into a cafe across the 
street, while black-shawled housewives with children tagging after 
them hurried off to do the day's marketing. A trio of peroxide 
blondes swayed along the rough pavement on high-heeled shoes to 
the intense interest of a group of young men in dark blue berets who 
stood in the sun prodding their teeth with toothpicks. Donkey-carts 
rumbled across the cobble-stones, newspaper sellers shouted their 
wares, and from a movie house half a block away came a lively 
melody from Al Jolson's Casino de Paris. For a city subjected to 
daily bombardments Madrid seemed as unreal as a huge movie set 
swarming with extras ready to play a part. 



The telephone rang with a message from Sefton (Tom) Delmer 
of the London Daily Express, who offered to show me the sights of 
Madrid. I had often heard of Tom, who was noted for his quick wit 
and had the reputation of being one of the shrewdest journalists in 
Europe. He was a large bulk of a man with a smiling face. He 
greeted me by asking hopefully if I had brought any food from 
France. The fact that I hadn't I soon realized was an unforgiveable 

We strolled down the streets and Tom told me he had covered 
the war on the Nationalist side until he made the mistake of writing 
the story of Knickerbocker's trip to Burgos. The latter's plane had 
been mistaken for an enemy machine and fired upon by anti-aircraft 
guns. Tom pointed out in his story that Knickerbocker had been 
unaware of the episode until he was informed of it by the aerodrome 
authorities. The Nationalists claimed this was an attempt to cast 
reflection on their anti-aircraft defences and Tom was thereby ex- 
pelled. Since then he had been covering the news from Madrid: "All 
Spaniards are mad," he said, "but the people over here are less 
dangerous to England." 

We walked along the main streets and passed dozens of holes 
blasted out of the pavements where shells had fallen; many buildings 
bore jagged wounds, and on the Castellana a huge stone lion stared 
gloomily into space as though it knew its nose had been chipped off 
by shrapnel. 

There was a good deal of traffic on the streets. Ministry of War 
cars, evacuation lorries, bicycles and ambulances all raced past us, 
and once a despatch rider on a motor-cycle roared by headed for the 
front. Parked on a side street we saw a brown and green camou- 
flaged truck bearing proud white letters that said: "Captured from 
the enemy at Guadalajara." 

At many of the corners stone barricades were erected across the 
streets barricades that had been built in November when Franco 
boasted that his generals would soon be drinking in the Puerta del 
Sol. "If Franco takes Madrid," said the people, "he'll have to fight 
for it inch by inch." 

And yet the atmosphere of the city was not one of war. Although 
it had become transformed into a village behind the front, bombs 


and shells had been unable to erase the daily routine of life. It was 
this that lent the city its curious air of theatre. Bright yellow tram- 
cars rattled peacefully down the avenues; shop windows displayed 
Schiaparelli perfume, silver fox furs, jewellery, gloves and ladies* 
hand-made shoes; movie houses advertised Greta Garbo in "Anna 
Karenina" and the Marx Brothers in "A Night at the Opera/' A 
store on the Gran Via held a gala exhibition of war posters; they 
were ultra-modern posters, screaming out in reds, oranges and blues 
for the people of Spain to defend the Republic against Fascism. 
There was a small jagged hole in the ceiling where a shell had come 
through; beside it a card had been tacked "Art as practised by Gen- 
eral Franco." 

The shell-holes, the camouflaged trucks and the stone barricades 
seemed as unreal as stage props; the sun was too warm, the people 
too nonchalant for war. Only the queue lines carried a sense of 
tragedy. On a side street a procession of women and children were 
lined up before a grocery store, with empty baskets over their arms. 
Some leaned wearily against the building, others sat on the curb 
staring into space with a strange Oriental impassiveness. All over 
Madrid these queue lines were formed. The city's main diet was 
beans, bread and rice, but food was so scarce that only a limited 
number could be served. Tom said that often the lines waited from 
midnight till noon the next day. 

We crossed the Puerta del Sol and Tom stopped at a small shop to 
look at some cavalry cloaks which he was thinking of taking back 
to England as presents. We had to step over an old peddler woman 
who was selling red and black anarchist ties and small tin ornaments 
made in the shapes of tanks and aeroplanes which she had carefully 
spread over the pavement. 

The proprietor welcomed Tom warmly and brought out an assort- 
ment of capes of different lengths and cuts with a variety of brightly- 
coloured linings. They discussed them for some time and Tom de- 
cided to come back again. When we said good-bye he asked the 
proprietor how his business was going and the man sighed and shook 
his head: "It is very difficult, Sefior. There are so few gentlemen 
left in Madrid." Outside, Tom said: "It is obvious where his sympa- 
thies lie." 


As we were walking down the Gran Via on the way back to the 
hotel I asked Tom how often the city was shelled and he stopped 
and looked meditatively at his watch. "It's past noon now. They 
usually drop a few before lunch." Scarcely a moment later I heard 
a noise like the sound of cloth ripping. It was gentle at first, then it 
grew into a hiss; there was a split second of silence, followed by a 
bang as a shell hurtled into the white stone telephone building at the 
end of the street. Bricks and timber crashed to the ground and dust 
rose up in a billow. A second shell plunged into the pavement thirty 
yards away and a third hit a wooden block of flats on a corner. 
Everyone started running, scattering into vestibules and doorways, 
like pieces of paper blown by a sudden gust of wind. 

Tom and I took cover in a perfume shop and the explosions con- 
tinued one every minute. My heart pounded uncertainly; the crash 
of falling bricks and breaking glass and the thick dust that rose up 
to blot out the sunshine seemed like some fearful Bible plague tuned 
up and mechanized for the twentieth-century appetite. The pro- 
prietress of the shop, however, appeared to be far more concerned 
with the preservation of property than possible death. She hastily 
began removing the perfume bottles from the window and laid them 
in neat rows on the floor. With each explosion she broke into a fresh 
flow of expletives. Tom explained she was afraid the windows would 
break. And glass, she said, was very dear. 

The bombardment lasted about half an hour. When it was over 
we walked down the street; the pavements were strewn with bricks 
and sharpnel and a telephone pole leaned drunkenly across one of 
the buildings, the wires hanking down like streamers. The second 
floor of a hat-shop had a gaping hole and at the corner an automobile 
was a twisted mass of steel. Nearby, the pavement was spattered with 
blood where two women had been killed. 

Desolation hung over the thoroughfare, but the loud-speaker was 
still screaming a tune from the Casino de Paris. Trucks rolled up 
and men got out and began to clear up the debris, the music ringing 
in their ears as they worked. Groups of people gathered on the cor- 
ners and little boys ran out to collect pieces of shrapnel as souvenirs, 
and newspaper sellers drifted back to their boxes, the bootblacks 
called for customers and the shopkeepers re-arranged their wares. 


Two hours later the rubble was in neat piles along the curb. Auto- 
mobiles hooted their way over the cobble-stones, and once again 
people sauntered arm-in-arm in the sunshine. That, I learned, was 
Madrid. Mr. Hyde had vanished and Dr. Jekyll once more had 
control of the city. 

I had never before felt the sort of fear that sends the blood racing 
through your veins. As intense an emotion as it was, I was surprised 
to find that with the passing of danger it disappeared so completely 
it was difficult even to recall the sensation. More curious still, it left 
no hang-over of apprehension. In between bombardments you liter- 
ally forgot about them. Why this was I don't know; Nature, I sup- 
pose, taking its course. At any rate, the whine of a shell never failed 
to come as an utter surprise, and, to my way of thinking, a very nasty 
one at that. I greatly admired the indifference, often bordering on 
nonchalance, with which the Spaniards accepted these bombard- 

Strategically, Madrid was a third-line trench and the population 
had received their training. Civilian ears had become so acute that 
the ordinary man or woman could judge the proximity of a shell by 
the sound of the whistle. When shells fell at four- and five-minute 
intervals it indicated that only one battery was firing and there was 
always "a safe side" of the street. But if the explosions came fast it 
meant a cross fire then there was nothing to do but take cover 
and trust to luck. During innumerable shellings I never once saw a 
sign of panic. People conducted themselves as coolly as trained sol- 
diers; narrow escapes became so much a part of daily life they 
were not even major topics of conversation. 

I soon discovered that food was much more of a preoccupation 
than danger. Occasionally, when a donkey-cart, filled with lettuces 
or bread, moved through the streets a crowd gathered and tagged it 
breathlessly to its destination. In spite of this terrible shortage of 
essentials, the cognac and gin supplies had held up well and every 
afternoon the cafes were crowded. One of the most popular cafes 
was on the Puerta del Sol. A bomb had gone through the top of the 
building and you could see chunks of sky through the roof, but the 
ground floor did a thriving business. 

The two gayest meeting-places, however, were the once fashion- 


able Chicote's and Molinero's. Although these cafes were on the 
Gran Via, the most frequently-bombarded street in Madrid, every 
afternoon they were crowded with soldiers with guns dangling from 
their hips and platinum blondes whose hair was growing out very 
black due to the fact that all the peroxide had been confiscated by the 

At Molinero's you found a last lingering badge of class-conscious 
Spain. The waiters were the same waiters who used to serve the 
wealthy Madrilenos and they were dressed in the conventional uni- 
form of black suit and white shirt. Some pushed their way through 
the noisy, singing throngs with obvious disdain; others took advan- 
tage of the camarada spirit and served you with unshaven faces and 
cigarettes hanging from their mouths. 

The owners of Chicote's and Molinero's and most of the big shops 
and hotels had either been shot, were in gaol, or had fled from the 
city. Their concerns had been taken over by the Trade Unions and 
many were run collectively by the employees. Palaces and country 
villas were used as ministries and headquarters. Often journalists 
went to get their permits from officials in sweaters and leather jackets, 
reclining in sixteenth-century chairs in rooms with carved walls and 
priceless tapestries. More than once interviews were brought to a halt 
while the "comrade" proudly insisted upon your making an inspection 
of the books and paintings, and even the statues in the garden. 

During those first few days in Madrid, it all seemed like a strange 
carnival to me. It was only at night when the capital was swallowed 
up in a suffocating darkness that the atmosphere took on a note of 
grim reality. The buildings jutted up so blackly the sky looked almost 
white, and as you threaded your way along the pavement, guards 
moved noiselessly out of the doorways and asked to examine your 

Everything was deserted and still. The only noise was a distant 
one: the noise of fighting on the Casa del Campo, a mile and a half 
away. You could hear the dull thud of trench mortars like far-off 
thunder, and the thin crack of rifles like sheets snapping in the wind. 
And as you walked through the night, stumbling over shell-holes, 
you wondered whether this was just the beginning and how long it 
would be before the lights went out somewhere else. 


Chapter III 


1 H 


basement restaurant on the Gran Via, the only restaurant open in 
the whole of Madrid. It was run by the Government and had a re- 
stricted clientele made up mostly of officials, police agents, army 
officers and prostitutes. 

The room was always noisy and crowded and blue with smoke. 
Once during a bombardment a group of militia raised their wine- 
glasses and toasted each crash with shouts and bursts of song. When 
a six-inch shell smashed through the pavement in front of the door, 
twisting the steel frame of the awning, the waiter drew a tumult of 
applause by offering everyone a drink on the house. 

The door of the restaurant was heavily guarded by armed sentries, 
and often I saw women crying and begging to be let in, but no one 
was allowed to enter without an official pass. 

Once inside, the food was meagre and at times scarcely eatable. 
The routine menu was salami and a plate of rice for luncheon, more 
salami and a plate of beans for supper. Once we had a three-day run 
of eggs, but they had a queer taste and word spread around quickly 
that they were bombed eggs from Cordoba. Exactly what shape a 
bombed egg took on I never discovered. 

We always left the restaurant hungry, and although I'd never 
experienced discomfort from lack of food before, our lot was so 
much better than the average Spaniard's, that we seldom passed 
through the guarded door without a guilty feeling as though we had 
no right to be there. 

Some of the journalists had managed to bring in food supplies from 



France and Tom Delmer's sitting-room in the Hotel Florida became 
a popular meeting-place. Tom had equipped the room with electric 
burners and chafing dishes. A ham was suspended from a coat- 
hanger on the cupboard door and the table was littered with crackers 
and sardine tins. Every night from eleven on, the press gathered: 
there were Herbert Matthews of the New York Times: Ernest Hem- 
ingway of North American Newspaper Alliance; "Hank" Gorrell of 
the United Press; Thomas Loyetha of the International News Serv- 
ice; Martha Gellhorn of Collier's; George and Helen Seldes, Jo- 
sephine Herbst and many others. Although the food was distributed 
gingerly, there was always plenty of beer and whisky and the gather- 
ings seldom broke up before the early hours of the morning. 

When the room got hot Tom used to switch out the lights and 
open the windows. He often turned on the gramophone and played 
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Between the chords of music we could 
hear the distant rumble of artillery; it was always a strange mixture. 

Tom's parties came to an abrupt end when a shell plunged into his 
room and turned the chafing dishes and furniture into pulverised 
debris. Fortunately no one was there at the time. I came into the 
hotel lobby shortly afterwards and found the hotel manager sitting 
at his desk, pouring over his accounts as though nothing had hap- 
pened. When I asked him what damage had been done, he regarded 
me coldly and denied the hotel had been hit. Only a gas-main had 
broken, he said. Although the gaping hole in Tom's room was there 
for everyone to see, he stubbornly clung to his story for fear his 
guests would grow alarmed and leave. 

One guest did leave. He was a nameless American aviator who had 
come to Madrid on a few days' leave. He was in the corridor near 
the room when the shell hit and was knocked down by the blast. 
He was a little tipsy anyway, and came swaying down the stairs, 
shouting: "A fine type of relaxation. For fun, I'll do my own bomb- 

The newspaper men filed their stories each night from the Tele- 
hone Building on the Gran Via. It was the tallest building in Madrid 
and from the top floor you could see the Casa del Campo and the 


University City battlefields. As it was frequently used as an observa- 
tion post, it was a legitimate military objective, and during the time 
I was in Madrid received over eighty direct hits. The building was 
made of steel and concrete, however, and the walls proved too solid 
for six-inch explosives, so little damage was done. Once a three-inch 
shell made a hole in the roof of the telephone-room, but none of the 
operators was hurt. 

All newspaper stories were telephoned to London and Paris and 
from there cabled on to various parts of the world. There was a good 
deal of competition between the agencies as to who got the first call 
through. As there were only two outside lines it sometimes took four 
or five hours to establish connections. The majority of special corre- 
spondents were working for morning papers, which meant that the 
greatest rush came at nine o'clock in the evening; there were several 
cots in the telephone-room, and some of them went to sleep there 
until their 'urgents' came through. 

All stories had to be submitted to the censor and each page ap- 
proved by an official stamp. When they were read over the telephone 
an operator sat beside the journalist ready to cut the line if anything 
was inserted not included in the approved copy. There were fre- 
quent attempts "to beat the censor" by employing American slang 
expressions, but this came to an end when a Canadian girl joined the 
staff. The International Brigades were not allowed to be publicized; 
no reference could be made to Russian armaments, and buildings and 
streets which suffered bombardments could not be identified. 

It was only in the realm of the human interest story that the jour- 
nalists had a free hand. They could describe bombardments to their 
heart's content. It was dramatic to sit in the darkened room at night 
and listen to versions of the day's news being sent over the wires in 
German, French, Spanish and English to be relayed to the most re- 
mote corners of the earth. The despatches were always varied, for 
some described the bombardments with indifference and others with 
fevered intensity. I began to realize that much depended on where 
the writer had been when the shells fell. In the darkness of the be- 
leaguered capital it seemed odd to think of the telephone wires run- 
ning through the misery of Spain into the free fields of France and 
across the Channel to the sleepy peace of London. After listening 


to some particularly moving eye-witness account, I was usually 
jerked back to reality by a journalist shouting "Ne coupez pas, 
Madame. Listen, Eddie, how about sending some more dough?" . . . 

I was not covering daily news so I worked out an outline for a 
series of articles. One of the first things I wanted to do was to go to 
the front. Now this was not difficult. Although journalists were sup- 
posed to get a proper authorization, few of the Spanish sentries 
could read and almost any bit of paper (no matter how far out of 
date) would do. When you wanted to go to the front, you just got 
into a car and went. 

The most convenient front, however, ran through the Casa del 
Campo and the University City, only two miles from the main shop- 
ping district of Madrid. You took a tram halfway, walked the other 
half, and you were there. The two armies had been stalemated at this 
point ever since the previous November, when the Republican Inter- 
national Brigades had halted the Franco advance and at the eleventh 
hour saved Madrid. Neither side had been able to dislodge the other 
and for the past five months the soldiers had sat in opposite trenches, 
breaking the monotony by machine-gunning each other and lobbing 
grenades and mortars back and forth. 

I didn't have to wait long for an opportunity to visit the Casa del 
Campo. A few days after I arrived in Madrid I met Professor J. B. S. 
Haldane, an English scientist and former don at Cambridge Univer- 
sity, who was lunching at the Gran Via restaurant. "Think I'll hop 
down to the battlefield and have a look round," he said casually. "Do 
you want to come?" 

An hour later I found myself walking along a street on the out- 
skirts of the city. The Professor cut an eccentric figure in a pair of 
breeches too tight for him and a tin hat with a broken chin-strap, 
left over from the Great War, which he'd brought from England. 
As it was the only tin hat in the whole Republican Spain it attracted 
a good deal of attention from passers-by and twice sentries saluted 
us respectfully, obviously impressed. Although Haldane had come to 
Spain to advise the Government on antidotes for gas, he liked to pass 
himself off as a joke character. When anyone asked what he was 


University City battlefields. As it was frequently used as an observa- 
tion post, it was a legitimate military objective, and during the time 
I was in Madrid received over eighty direct hits. The building was 
made of steel and concrete, however, and the walls proved too solid 
for six-inch explosives, so little damage was done. Once a three-inch 
shell made a hole in the roof of the telephone-room, but none of the 
operators was hurt. 

All newspaper stories were telephoned to London and Paris and 
from there cabled on to various parts of the world. There was a good 
deal of competition between the agencies as to who got the first call 
through. As there were only two outside lines it sometimes took four 
or five hours to establish connections. The majority of special corre- 
spondents were working for morning papers, which meant that the 
greatest rush came at nine o'clock in the evening; there were several 
cots in the telephone-room, and some of them went to sleep there 
until their 'urgents' came through. 

All stories had to be submitted to the censor and each page ap- 
proved by an official stamp. When they were read over the telephone 
an operator sat beside the journalist ready to cut the line if anything 
was inserted not included in the approved copy. There were fre- 
quent attempts "to beat the censor" by employing American slang 
expressions, but this came to an end when a Canadian girl joined the 
staff. The International Brigades were not allowed to be publicized; 
no reference could be made to Russian armaments, and buildings and 
streets which suffered bombardments could not be identified. 

It was only in the realm of the human interest story that the jour- 
nalists had a free hand. They could describe bombardments to their 
heart's content. It was dramatic to sit in the darkened room at night 
and listen to versions of the day's news being sent over the wires in 
German, French, Spanish and English to be relayed to the most re- 
mote corners of the earth. The despatches were always varied, for 
some described the bombardments with indifference and others with 
fevered intensity. I began to realize that much depended on where 
the writer had been when the shells fell. In the darkness of the be- 
leaguered capital it seemed odd to think of the telephone wires run- 
ning through the misery of Spain into the free fields of France and 
across the Channel to the sleepy peace of London. After listening 


to some particularly moving eye-witness account, I was usually 
jerked back to reality by a journalist shouting "Ne coupez pas, 
Madame. Listen, Eddie, how about sending some more dough?" . . . 

I was not covering daily news so I worked out an outline for a 
series of articles. One of the first things I wanted to do was to go to 
the front. Now this was not difficult. Although journalists were sup- 
posed to get a proper authorization, few of the Spanish sentries 
could read and almost any bit of paper (no matter how far out of 
date) would do. When you wanted to go to the front, you just got 
into a car and went. 

The most convenient front, however, ran through the Casa del 
Campo and the University City, only two miles from the main shop- 
ping district of Madrid. You took a tram halfway, walked the other 
half, and you were there. The two armies had been stalemated at this 
point ever since the previous November, when the Republican Inter- 
national Brigades had halted the Franco advance and at the eleventh 
hour saved Madrid. Neither side had been able to dislodge the other 
and for the past five months the soldiers had sat in opposite trenches, 
breaking the monotony by machine-gunning each other and lobbing 
grenades and mortars back and forth. 

I didn't have to wait long for an opportunity to visit the Casa del 
Campo. A few days after I arrived in Madrid I met Professor J. B. S. 
Haldane, an English scientist and former don at Cambridge Univer- 
sity, who was lunching at the Gran Via restaurant. "Think Fll hop 
down to the battlefield and have a look round," he said casually. "Do 
you want to come?" 

An hour later I found myself walking along a street on the out- 
skirts of the city. The Professor cut an eccentric figure in a pair of 
breeches too tight for him and a tin hat with a broken chin-strap, 
left over from the Great War, which he'd brought from England. 
As it was the only tin hat in the whole Republican Spain it attracted 
a good deal of attention from passers-by and twice sentries saluted 
us respectfully, obviously impressed. Although Haldane had come to 
Spain to advise the Government on antidotes for gas, he liked to pass 
himself off as a joke character. When anyone asked what he was 


doing in Madrid, he always replied, "Just a spectator from England. 
Enjoyed the last war so much I thought Fd come to Spain for a 

We walked down a long avenue with stone barricades built across 
the intersections. Guards in sweaters and corduroy trousers, with 
rifles propped up beside them, said Salud and asked to see our passes. 
Most of them could not read, and some even held the papers upside 
down, but they all studied them with knitted brows, raised a 
clenched fist in the Popular Front salute, and let us pass. 

At the end of the avenue the streets grew desolate and blocks of 
houses were gutted and empty. Some had only the frames standing 
where bombs had plunged through the middle; others looked like 
stage sets with whole fronts ripped off. High up on one was a table 
all set for dinner, napkins in place, chairs pulled up, but for a wall 
it had only a piece of blue sky. 

It was ghostly and sad with the wind whistling through the win- 
dow-frames, and doors high above banging back and forth on empty 
caverns, but the Professor's spirits were high. He was just remarking 
on how fine the weather was when there was a loud whistle. A shell 
hit the brick house on the corner and another plunged into the pave- 
ment. We stumbled into a doorway and stood against a dark wall 
while several more passed overhead. After a few minutes the Pro- 
fessor decided it was safe to continue. "Anway," he added, with all 
the disdain of the World War veteran, "they are only little shells, 
so come along." 

My confidence in the Professor was shaky. I thought he was mak- 
ing too light of the situation, and the prospect of the front was 
growing more alarming every minute. However, at this stage there 
seemed little else to do but follow. 

The communication trenches started at the park at the end of the 
street. They were narrow, dirt trenches with a row of sandbags at 
the top. As they were only five feet high we had to bend down to 
keep under cover. The lines twisted and curved through the fields 
and as we crawled along, the mud slopping over our shoes, the guns 
grew louder. Bullets passed over our heads with an angry ring, some 
of them hitting the sides of the parapet with staccato cracks. From 


somewhere to the right was the nimble of artillery and the dull thud 
of mortars. 

The Professor called out to me cheerfully and asked how I liked 
it. I said, not much, and he seemed to resent this, for he yelled back 
that in the last war women were not allowed within six miles of the 
front lines. "You ought to be grateful for the privilege," he shouted. 

Suddenly the trench turned and we found ourselves in the front 
line. Long streams of soldiers were firing through the openings in the 
sandbags. Their faces were unshaven and their jackets and khaki 
trousers were smeared with grease and mud. Some looked not more 
than sixteen or seventeen years old. 

I should think we must have been a strange pair, but they didn't 
seem surprised to see us. They smiled warmly and the greeting Salud 
echoed up the line. One of them put down his rifle and pulled out a 
wooden box for me to sit on. Another, with a hand in a dirty band- 
age, offered us a package of dark brown cigarettes; then they all 
talked at once in eager Spanish. I couldn't understand but it didn't 
matter, for someone suddenly opened up with an ear-splitting rattle 
of machine-gun fire. I put my hands over my ears and wondered 
how anyone ever got used to the noise. 

One of the soldiers handed me a rifle and asked if I did not want 
to take a shot at los facciosos, and then a young boy with pink cheeks 
and large brown eyes stepped up and held a periscope over the trench 
so I could see the enemy lines. They were a jumble of stones and 
grass only fifty yards away. On the no-man's land in between lay 
three twisted bodies. 

"Los muertos nuestros" the boy said softly. 

The Professor squinted through the sandbags but said he didn't 
like the view. He explained that he wanted to get a look at the 
Clinico (a building in which the enemy was entrenched) and that 
we could probably see better from another position, so once again 
we started crawling along the line. There were forks to the right 
and left, and once he called out that he hadn't the foggiest idea where 
we were. "Hope we don't land up with the Fascists," he said cheer- 
fully, and just then the trench came to an abrupt halt. Directly ahead 
was a small green slope. 

Haldane scratched his head and said that in his opinion the other 


side of the hill ought to prove a better vantage point; but he didn't 
know what was on the other side and therefore might be wrong. Stray 
bullets were passing overhead and I refused to move until he found 
where he was going. As there was nobody in sight, I admit it offered 
a problem; nevertheless, I was unprepared for the Professor's quick 
solution. "You wait here," he said, and before I could stop him he 
ran up the slope and disappeared down the other side. 

I stood alone in the trench and wondered why I had ever come 
to Spain. I could hear the long swish of shells overhead and the ex- 
plosions as they fell in the distance. Bullets whined past and I ducked 
my head again and again, although I'd been carefully instructed that 
when you hear the whine, you're safe. 

The sun had gone behind a cloud and it was getting cold. I looked 
up and down the deserted line and wondered if the Professor would 
ever find his way back. Suddenly there was an explosion and twenty 
yards in front of me the earth shot up in a fountain. I went down on 
the ground as dirt and stones sprayed the air. When I found I was 
still intact I got up and tried to wipe the mud off my clothes with 
a handkerchief. Just then I heard someone whistling a tune and I 
looked up to see an officer approaching. He was a jaunty little man 
with a forage cap tilted over one eye. He spoke Spanish, but when I 
said I couldn't understand broke into a jumble of French. 

"This is no place to stand, Mademoiselle. They are throwing 
trench mortars." 

I told him he'd never spoken a truer word and explained my pre- 
dicament. He laughed and told me to follow him. "Don't worry: 
I'll find your friend dead or alive." 

He helped me over the slippery places with the air of a great 
cavalier and took my hand when we crawled through two dark 
tunnels; at last we came to a clearing. To the right of it was a white 
shack surrounded by trees and bushes and protected by a small hill. 

The room inside was crowded with soldiers. The blinds were 
drawn and the only light was a feeble bulb suspended from the ceil- 
ing. The lieutenant explained that I was an American writer who'd 
got lost in the trenches, and told them to look after me while he tried 
to find my friend. The soldiers grinned and all talked at once in 
Spanish I couldn't understand. There was a small burner in the 


middle of the room, and one of them pulled a chair up and motioned 
me to dry myself beside the fire. I took off my shoes and someone 
wiped them with a rag. Another soldier pushed his way through the 
group and offered me a piece of stale bread. The others laughed and 
explained with empty hands it was all they had to offer. 

Half an hour later the lieutenant reappeared and said he had found 
the Professor. While I was shaking hands all round they told the lieu- 
tenant to apologize for the poor hospitality, and one of them asked 
if I were going to write about them in an article. When I nodded 
a tall soldier standing near the door, obviously an accepted wit, said 
to be sure to say that they liked fighting Fascists a good deal better 
than their grandfathers had liked fighting Americans. And did I 
think the United States would send some guns and planes to show 
what a fine new friendship it had turned out to be? Everybody 
laughed and I followed the lieutenant out of the door amid a fare- 
well of Salud. 

Once again we crawled through the trenches and finally came to 
a small dug-out. Inside, two soldiers were lying on a cot eating rice 
from a battered tin plate; a wireless operator sat at a wooden table 
with earphones on his head, and in the middle, crouched on a low 
wooden stool drinking a bottle of wine, was the Professor. "Hullo," 
he said affably, "where have you been hiding?" 

He seemed to take my reappearance for granted and enthusiasti- 
cally described the splendid view he had had of the Clinico. Appar- 
ently, for him, at any rate, the trip had been a great success. 

The lieutenant led us through the communicating lines and finally 
set us on our way down the avenue. Before he said good-bye, he 
drew a bottle of gin from his pocket, gave the Professor a swig, then 
took one himself. With a parting salute, he disappeared back into 
the trenches again, whistling as he went. 


Chapter IV 



that April than at any other period of the war. The Republicans had 
taken great heart at their Guadalajara victory, and now regarded the 
future with a robust optimism. They talked in terms of large-scale 
offensives and of the peace they would impose at the end of the war. 
Even to an inexperienced military observer like myself, all this 
seemed premature, but faith in victory had become a fierce necessity 
to soldiers and civilians who had suffered much during the cold 
winter months. 

Now the spring had come to dry the ground and warm the houses, 
and the people had gathered new strength. The daily bombardments 
of Madrid had become a routine matter; it was always quiet at siesta 
time and the capital was seldom shelled at night. (For some unknown 
reason, after the first seven or eight months of the war, Madrid 
proper was never again bombed from the air.) There was an average 
of approximately fifty or sixty casualties a day, but as there were 
nearly a million inhabitants, proportionately this was not high. 

As I have said before, the worst phase of Madrid life was the 
shortage of food. Although many of the surrounding villages were 
well supplied with vegetables, eggs and milk, there was no proper 
organization for transporting food into the capital. Several times I 
saw crowds running after food trucks, shouting at the drivers and 
imploring them to stop. And more than once people tried to storm 
the heavily-guarded doors of the Gran Via restaurant. 

I remember a scene in the restaurant when the Duchess of Atholl, 
a member of the House of Commons, visited Madrid. The manager 
had somehow managed to get a chicken which he served Her Grace 


for lunch. After she had left, one of the anarchists upbraided him 
fiercely for showing "class distinction". A group gathered around 
and the argument became many-sided. 

"While the people starve, the Duchess eats chicken." 

"But, camarada, she is powerful in England and she is a friend of 
the Republic." 

"Then let her go hungry so that she can tell them better how we 
live. If she were not a Duchess you would have given her rice." 

The manager was in danger of being denounced as a Fifth Col- 
umnist and he persisted heatedly, "I am not interested in whether or 
not she is a Duchess. She is a friend. There can be nothing wrong in 
making an impression for the sake of the cause." 

The argument went on for some time until one of the journalists 
stepped in as a mediator, and the group dispersed. But that night the 
Duchess ate the ordinary fare of salami and rice. 

The war atmosphere in Madrid was confusing to the newcomer. 
Although all the propaganda was concentrated on the German and 
Italian invasion of Spain, rather than on the class issue, the character 
of Madrid was distinctly revolutionary. Apart from a handful of 
Government officials, Madrid was proletarian with a vengeance. 
Almost without exception, members of the upper and middle-classes 
had sided with General Franco. Many, of course, had been unable 
to escape from Republican territory and were in hiding; others were 
in gaol or had been shot. The hotels and cafes were run by the 
waiters and employees. All businesses and shops had been taken over 
by the Government and the profits confiscated for the prosecution 
of the war. Only a few proprietors were allowed to continue the 
direction of their firms and they were paid a weekly salary. Natu- 
rally, enormous disorganization had resulted in this upheaval and the 
problem of internal re-orientation was almost as great as waging 
the war. 

The Communists were by far the most powerfully organized party 
in Spain and their influence was widely felt. Although they declared 
vehemently that they were fighting to re-establish the Republic, I 
found this difficult to believe. Anyone who really did believe in a 


republic and was hostile to a dictatorship of the proletariat was in- 
stantly branded as Fascist. The fact that I was not a Communist 
immediately stamped me as suspect. Although at that time they had 
orders from Moscow to support the democracies against the Fascists, 
their efforts were entirely spent on spreading the Marxist doctrine. 
For this reason they insisted fiercely on the system of political com- 
missars in the army in order that they might convert many of the 

Certainly many Spaniards were not in sympathy with the extreme 
Left. The petits bourgeois, whose small properties had been con- 
fiscated, could not be counted as loyal supporters; neither could the 
deeply religious people, even among the poor. I remember one day 
Thomas Loyetha, the International News Service correspondent, 
taking Tom Delmer and me to a small flat for lunch, which was 
kept by a middle-aged Spanish woman, who, before the war, had 
been a procuress. Since all the wealthy young men were on the 
Franco side her livelihood had fallen off, and now she earned a few 
pesetas as a cook. Somehow she always managed to get hold of a 
few chickens and once a week Loyetha went there for a really good 
meal. During lunch she showed us a small cupboard in which sev- 
eral crucifixes were hidden. She said that when the bombardments 
came she took them out and prayed. There was little doubt where 
her sympathies lay, and if the crucifixes had been discovered by the 
police she would have been imprisoned if not shot. 

I also remember the surprise I had when I visited one of the gaols 
in Madrid. It was inside a hastily converted monastery. When I 
walked in I found the anarchist warden seated behind a huge oak 
desk with a background of dark red tapestries, hung with pictures 
of the Virgin. He led me through long corridors, with small rooms 
on either side, crowded with men. Some of the prisoners were scrub- 
bing floors, other were wandering aimlessly along the corridors, and 
still others were standing in groups, talking and smoking. Most of 
them were ordinary working-class people, and it was then that I 
realized how deep the political cleavage had gone. Indeed, these 
people and the small middle-class proprietors were the section from 
which the executioner had taken the heaviest toll, for the aristocrats, 


through money and influence, had managed to bribe their way out 
and the majority escaped. 

For this reason Republican propaganda was directed almost entirely 
against the foreign invader, and many Spaniards who varied on the 
class issue rallied to the call of the great posters picturing a peasant's 
foot crushing the iron swastika with the words: "Madrid shall be the 
tomb of Fascism." 

Madrid was under strict martial law and on the whole life was 
orderly. Sometimes one of the soldiers who thronged into Chicote's 
bar in the afternoon drank too much and the air resounded with 
revolver shots, and occasionally the police reminded people of the 
blackout restrictions by shooting up at rooms whose lights were 
showing. Martha Gellhorn went back to the hotel one night to find 
a neat round bullet-hole in her window because the maid had 'forgot- 
ten to draw the curtain. 

The city's streets were deserted at night and sentries were posted 
at the barricades on the corners. You could wander about without 
being molested, but if you rode in a car you had to know the pass- 
word. When Tom Delmer first arrived he was not familiar with this 
regulation, and drove through the streets in a car with another jour- 
nalist. A sentry accosted the pair: "Halt! who goes there?"; and 
asked for the password with the sentence: "Where are we going?" 
The answer was "To Victory." But Tom replied: "To the British 
Embassy"; with the result that they achieved neither one, for they 
were promptly taken to headquarters for questioning. 

Madrid was honeycombed with Fifth Columnists and spies, and 
the Republicans had a large secret police force working to combat 
the leakage of information. Dossiers were kept on thousands of sus- 
pects, including the entire foreign press, and garish posters pasted on 
the buildings warned the population of the dangers of spies even 
among friends. A favourite poster showed a green-faced man with a 
hand cupped to his ear and in front of him a senorita with fingers 
raised to her red lips, saying: "Sh! Comrades! not a word to brothers 
or friends or sweethearts!" 

None of us knew the full activities of the secret police or what 
went on behind the prison walls of Madrid. There is no doubt, how- 
ever, that the Government was waging a desperate struggle against 


Fifth Columnists who were supplying the enemy with a steady stream 
of information by radio and courier. There is no doubt, either, that 
many thousands of innocent persons were dragged from their beds 
and shot without trial. 

Although I never witnessed any "atrocities" myself there is one 
episode that stands out in my mind. I was having lunch at the Gran 
Via restaurant with Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Herbst when 
a bombardment started. Shells were dropping on the street outside 
the cafe and it was impossible to leave, so we sat lingering over our 
coffee. At the next table I noticed a fastidious-looking man dressed 
from head to toe in dove grey. He had the high forehead and long 
fingers of the intellectual and wore horn-rimmed spectacles which 
added to his thoughtful appearance. 

"That," said Hemingway, "is the chief executioner of Madrid." 

Ernest invited him to join us and he accepted on the condition we 
would allow him to buy us a carafe of wine. His manner was in- 
gratiating to the point of sycophancy, but I shall never forget the 
look in his bright, marble-brown eyes. Perhaps it was my imagination, 
but to me they mirrored all the traditional sadism of Spain. Heming- 
way was passionately interested in details of death and soon was 
pressing the man with questions. 

"Have many people died in Madrid?" 

"A revolution is always hasty." 

"And have there been many mistakes?" 

"Mistakes? It is only human to err." 

"And the mistakes how did they die?" 

"On the whole, considering they were mistakes," he said medi- 
tatively, "very well indeed; in fact, magnifico!" It was the way he 
said it that sent a shiver down my spine. His voice rose on the last 
word to a note of rapture and his eyes gleamed with relish. He 
reached out for the carafe of wine and filled my glass. It gurgled 
into the tumbler, thick and red, and I could only think of blood. 

When we got out of the restaurant, Hemingway said: "A chic 
type, eh? Now remember, he's mine." When I read his play, The 
Fifth Column, many months later, I was not surprised to find the 
following lines: 


Philip: And, Antonio. Sometimes there must have been mistakes, eh? 
When you had to work in a hurry perhaps. Or you know, just mis- 
takes, we all make mistakes. I just made a little one yesterday. Tell me, 
Antonio, were there ever any mistakes? 

Antonio: Oh, yes. Certainly. Mistakes. Oh, yes. Mistakes. Yes. Yes. Very 
regrettable mistakes. A very few. 

Philip: And how did the mistakes die? 

Antonio (proudly): All very well. 

Hemingway was greatly admired in Spain and known to everyone 
as "Pop." He was a massive, ruddy-cheeked man who went around 
Madrid in a pair of filthy brown trousers and a torn blue shirt. 
"They're all I brought with me," he would mumble apologetically. 
"Even the anarchists are getting disdainful." Although he had been 
wounded four times in the World War, the trenches had a fascina- 
tion for him. On days when the front was quiet, he used to prowl 
around trying to borrow cartridges to go out to the country and 
shoot rabbits. 

His room on the second floor of the Florida shared honours with 
Tom Delmer's suite as a meeting-place for a strange assortment of 
characters. I don't suppose any hotel in the world has ever attracted 
a more diverse assembly of foreigners. They came from all parts of 
the globe and their backgrounds read like a series of improbable 
adventure stories. There were idealists and mercenaries; scoundrels 
and martyrs; adventurers and embusques\ fanatics, traitors, and plain 
down-and-outs. They were like an odd assortment of beads strung 
together on a common thread of war. Any evening you could find 
them in the Florida; Dutch photographers, American airmen, Ger- 
man refugees, English ambulance drivers, Spanish picadors and Com- 
munists of every breed and nationality. 

Hemingway's room was presided over by Sydney Franklin, a 
tough young American bull-fighter. He had often fought in the bull- 
rings of Spain and had a collection of rings and heavily-embossed 
cigarette-cases which had been presented to him by various fans. 
When I asked him how he had happened to come to Madrid, he said: 
"Well, see, one day Ernest rings me up and says: c 'lo, kid, want to 
go to the war in Spain?' and I says, 'Sure, Pop. Which side we on?' " 

Then there was Lolita, a Spanish prostitute, with a round, innocent 


face, who, temporarily at least, was the mistress of a member of the 
secret police. Whenever he quarrelled with her he had her arrested 
and sent off to gaol for a few days, which always resulted in fearful 
agitation to get her out again. And there was Kajsa, a Swedish girl 
who dressed in men's clothes and wore her hair in a Greta Garbo bob. 
She had held jobs all over Europe ranging from governess to tourist 
guide, and had finally wound up in Barcelona as a marathon dancer. 
On the twelfth day of the dance war broke out and she went to the 
front as a nurse. She spoke seven languages fluently and her talents 
finally had been employed by the Press Bureau who appointed her 
as a semi-official interpreter for the foreign journalists. 

The extraordinary personalities which became part of our daily life 
all held decided opinions, and there were endless and fierce discus- 
sions on the issues of the day. The Communist "intellectuals" provided 
a cosmopolitan atmosphere, for their activities were not confined to 
Spain. The world was their battlefield and the political evolutions 
of Leon Blum, Neville Chamberlain and Franklin Roosevelt were 
of more interest to them than the immediate leadership of Largo 

Of all the Communists, Claud Cockburn, who wrote under the 
name of Frank Pitcairn for the London Daily Worker, was the best 
raconteur. He had a wealth of "inside" stories dealing with banking 
scandals, international conspiracies and corrupt politicians. The world 
I had always found so innocent suddenly became alive with hideous 
melodrama, and for hours I sat enthralled. The solution for all pana- 
ceas lay, of course, in the theory of dialectical materialism. I was 
surprised to find that so ardent a champion of Marx had never visited 
the Soviet Union, but Claud explained it by saying: "Russia is fixed; 
I am not interested in watching revolutions; my job is making them." 
Most of the Communists were confident that the world uprising was 
not far distant. Fascism, they declared, would put the issue to a test 
and out of the chaos of a world conflagration the workers would rise. 

Few of us went to bed before the early hours of the morning. We 
rose late and did most of our work in the afternoon. Martha Gellhorn 
was writing articles for Collier's, so we often visited prisons and hos- 
pitals together, collecting data and interviewing officials. On looking 


back over the meagre notes I kept I find a few paragraphs marked 
'Sunday, April nth/ which was perhaps a routine day. Here it is: 

Woke up at eight o'clock starved from lack of food. Went downstairs 
to the lobby and found George and Helen Seldes talking to a newly- 
arrived journalist who had a package of butter and honey. George had 
some tea, so I quickly attached myself to the party; we went upstairs and 
ate a luxurious breakfast. 

About eleven, walked down to the Puerta del Sol with Tom Delmer 
who wanted to buy some wine, but instead got caught in the middle of 
a bombardment. I thought it was our guns that were firing until everyone 
started running for cover. The only people who refused to move were 
the women standing in a queue line outside a bread shop. I suppose a 
quick death is preferable to starvation. 

We started home but my shoe hurt, and instead of going around the 
long way we walked down the Gran Via, which was a very foolish thing 
to do as the shells were whistling over every few seconds. Tom said he 
had written so often about the inaccuracies of rebel gunfire it would be 
ironical to have one of them put an end to his promising career. 

At the hotel we ran into Martha Gellhorn and Hemingway and 
arranged to meet at twelve to go to a festival for the benefit of the FAI 
and hear Pastoras sing. Pastoras never sang and the show was bad; a tap 
dancer in tails and top hat, a very old flamenco singer and a skit between 
a priest and a housewife, both of whom kept their backs turned squarely 
on the audience so that no one could hear what they said. Everyone 
cheered a lot, so it was evidently a success. 

In the afternoon joined Herbert Matthews and Hemingway at the Old 
Homestead, to watch the battle on the Casa del Campo. The Republicans 
are trying to take three houses in which the Rebels are entrenched. We 
watched them shelling the houses, then saw two tanks come down a 
narrow path. One of them caught fire and turned into a sheet of flames 
and the other turned back. Herbert thought we might see a big offensive, 
but nothing doing, so finally went back to the hotel. 

The battle we watched was an offensive launched by the Repub- 
licans; it extended from Las Rozas, on the Escorial road, through the 
Casa del Campo to Carabanchel. It lasted three days and in the end 
was repulsed with heavy casualties. The "Old Homestead" was a 
house which Hemingway found on the outskirts of the capital. The 
front had been ripped away by a bomb, so it provided an excellent 


vantage-point from which to watch the battle. I was surprised to find 
how banal war became from a distance. Against the wide panorama 
of rolling hills the puffs of smoke were daubs of cotton and the tanks 
children's toys. When one of them burst into flames it looked no 
bigger than the flare of a match. Against the great sweep of Nature, 
man's struggle became so diminutive it was almost absurd. 

Hemingway, however, followed the moves eagerly. "It's the nast- 
iest thing human beings can do to each other," he pronounced sol- 
emnly, "but the most exciting." 

We heard footsteps coming up the stairs and looked around to find 
Professor J. B. S. Haldane. He greeted us with his usual cordiality 
and looked around for a place to sit. The house was gutted with 
pulverized furniture, old clothes and broken pictures. From the debris 
he dragged a dilapidated red plush chair, placed it in the middle of 
the room, and sat down in full view of the battlefield. He put his 
elbows on his knees and adjusted his field-glasses. Hemingway warned 
him it was dangerous to remain exposed, but Haldane waved him 
aside. A few minutes later Hemingway spoke again: "Your glasses 
shine in the sun; they will think we are military observers." 

"My dear fellow, I can assure you there isn't any danger here in 
the house." 

Ten minutes later there was a loud whistle as a shell plunged into a 
flat next door. Two more screamed overhead and we all went down 
on the floor all except Haldane, who scrambled down the stairs and 
disappeared. We were shelled for fifteen or twenty minutes, and 
when at last we got back to the Florida we found him sitting in the 
lobby, drinking beer. 

"Hallo," he called amiably, "let me buy you a drink." 

We did; and more than one. 

When the fighting was over the Republicans had a total of nearly 
three thousand dead and wounded. The two largest hotels in Madrid, 
the Palace and the Ritz, which had been turned into hospitals, were 
both crowded. I went into the Palace and I shall never forget the 
sight. The steps were spattered with blood and the lobby was crowded 
with wounded men on stretchers waiting to be operated on. By mis- 


take I went through the wrong door and found myself in the oper- 
ating-room. The nurses were not dressed in uniforms and went drift- 
ing in and out as though it were a smoking lounge. Most of them 
were peroxide blondes with dirty hands and nails painted vermilion. 
I learned that the nursing profession had been almost entirely re- 
stricted to the nuns; since they were on the Franco side the doctors 
had been forced to use whatever help they could find. 

Do not imagine that hardship and suffering had tamed the natural 
high spirits of the Spaniard. Bitter trials had drawn them together 
and the atmosphere was quick and friendly. Everyone was camarada 
and everyone was fighting the Fascists. I took a great liking to the 
Spanish people; temperamentally, they were as quick and changing 
as the country they lived in, with its great mountains and its arid 
plateaux, its bitter cold and its tropical heat. If they cried one day, 
they laughed the next. 

Even in their darkest hours they retained a sense of humour and 
a zest for living. Anyone who travelled through the country could 
scarcely fail to be shocked by the miserable living conditions in the 
villages. The houses were dilapidated and filthy, and often there were 
no sanitary arrangements of any kind. Children with sores on their 
faces and bodies sprawled in the dust like animals. I soon began to 
understand the grievance against the Church, for in many of these 
villages cathedral spires rose splendidly over scenes of unforgettable 
squalor spires fashioned by the money of the peasants. 

The hospitality of the poor was touching. They welcomed visitors 
eagerly and insisted on sharing whatever food and wine they had in 
the house. If you offered them payment, they were offended. Their 
spirits were exuberant and they took a passionate interest in the 
lighter side of life. One day I visited a small village about forty miles 
outside Madrid with Sydney Franklin, the American bull-fighter. 
One of the peasants had seen him fight in Seville and the word spread 
through the village like wildfire. People stared at him admiringly and 
children tagged after him when he walked down the road; the Mayor 
of the village came out to shake his hand and made him promise that 


when the war was over he would come back and put on a show 
for them. 

I think it was this natural buoyancy of spirit that kept the morale 
in Madrid so high during the long months of bombardment and semi- 
starvation. Their courage did not consist in bearing their burden 
patiently, but in ignoring it. Indifference to danger was almost a 
matter of honour to a nation that had long worshipped the courage 
of the bull-fighter. Once I sat in a cafe while a bombardment was 
going on outside. One of the journalists had left his car and chauffeur 
waiting for him, and when we went out we found the driver slumped 
over the wheel. We ran up to him thinking he had been injured, but 
he sat up, rubbed his eyes, and apologized for having fallen asleep. 

To the average Spaniard the struggle for daily bread was far more 
worrying than shell-fire. A few days after Tom Delmer's suite had 
been hit the hotel was struck again. This time I found the manager 
having a tantrum in the lobby, denying that anything had happened. 
"Lies, lies, lies!" he cried excitedly. "You will give my hotel a bad 
name and ruin my business." 

Poor little man, I'm afraid that is exactly what did happen, for 
after I had left Spain I heard that the Florida had been struck again, 
and if you went to Madrid the place to stay was the Palace Hospital. 


Chapter V 



were dead-locked over a vaguely defined nine-hundred-mile front. 
The stubborn Republican defence had forced Franco to abandon his 
immediate drive to the capital and now he was preparing for a major 
offensive in the north. At many points along the north front opposing 
battalions faced each other from trenches only a few hundred yards 
apart. During periods of inactivity they lobbed grenades and mortars 
back and forth and broke the monotony by shouting insults across 
the short no-man's land; other times they sang flamenco love-songs 
and occasionally, in the quiet of the night, the enemy picked up the 

No one who saw the Republican troops could fail to be moved by 
the odds against which they fought. They were a ragged unkempt 
lot. Their army numbered about six hundred thousand, but few had 
had any previous military experience. They were untrained, un- 
equipped and badly fed. Many had learned how to fire a rifle in the 
front line and many had paid for it with their lives. Few had uni- 
forms; they wore an odd assortment of sweaters and jackets, corduroy 
trousers and rubber-soled shoes. They were peasants drawn from the 
villages of Spain to fight Europe's first war against totalitarianism. 

I made many trips to the front. I saw soldiers in the trenches at 
Escorial, in the mountains of Guardarrama, and in the rolling fields 
of Guadalajara. As there was only a handful of officers to train the 
men, it became necessary to recruit them from the ranks. Since few 
of the peasants could read or write, an accomplishment essential for 
officers, schools were opened at many headquarters and education 
became a feverish part of military life. At one of the barracks on the 



Casa del Campo I saw a roomful of grown men struggling over a 
children's primer entitled: "Canuto el soldato bruto" (Canute, the 
stupid soldier). On the wall was a sign that said: "Beat Fascism by 
learning to read and write." 

Although the Republican troops had endured great hardships, their 
spirits were usually high. Foreigners who went to the front were 
smothered with hospitality and the soldiers demonstrated their guns 
and tanks with childish delight. The wretched visitor was often sub- 
jected to terrifying experiences. When I went to the Guadarrama 
front with Ernest Hemingway, it was considered a friendly gesture 
to take us for a drive in an armoured car and run us down a road 
which was under enemy fire in order that we might hear the bullets 
cracking up against the steel sides. 

This particular front consisted of a series of strong points scattered 
through the mountains and woods. One of the positions was at the 
top of a hill and I shall never forget the scene that met us as we 
approached it. Behind a jagged boulder, jutting up against the sky, 
stood a group of ragged soldiers. One of them was sitting on a 
wooden box playing a guitar and the others stood around clapping 
their hands to the steady beat of the music. The guitar-player threw 
back his head and broke into a Spanish love-song; his voice cut 
through the afternoon air in a mournful and passionate cry. Suddenly 
there was the sharp retort of machine-gun fire. Some of the bullets 
cracked up against the boulder and others went overhead with a 
sing-song whine. But the soldiers kept on beating a steady clap-clap 
to the time of the music. 

When we got to the top of the hill they shook hands warmly and 
offered us cheese and wine. They made us look through an opening 
in the sandbags and told us the white house sixty yards away at the 
foot of the hill belonged to the enemy. Far to the right was another 
house which belonged to the Colonel of the Republican Brigade. 

Then one of the soldiers came forward and said he was sure the 
lady would like to see how a trench-mortar worked. It was impossible 
to stop him and soon several of them had begun a minor offensive 
against the enemy position. It seemed only logical that the latter 
should retaliate and I waited, terrified, for the battle to develop. A 
moment later we heard the burst of machine-gun fire but not directed 


towards us the enemy had mistaken our position and opened fire 
on the Colonel's house. The soldiers considered this an enormous joke 
and many of them laughed until they had to hold their sides. 

The commander of this particular battalion, in boots and breeches 
and green turtle-necked sweater, had a forage cap pulled rakishly 
over one eye. In peace time he had driven a truck in Madrid, but now 
his swagger and bravado had won him the name of El Guerrero. He 
had fought all winter in the mountain passes of Guadarrama and 
although his battalion had been wiped out on several occasions he had 
managed to get more replacements, and, fighting a desperate guerrilla 
warfare, had prevented the enemy from moving their columns along 
the narrow roads. At Headquarters he introduced us to a girl who 
had fought side by side with them during the winter months. She 
had plucked eyebrows and rouged lips and was wearing a man's uni- 
form. El Guerrero proudly told us his wife had also fought with 
them, but he had had to send her back to Madrid a few weeks before 
as she was expecting a baby. 

El Guerrero's men were the toughest of the tough. They were few 
against many and their chances of survival were limited. Most of 
their work consisted of surrounding enemy positions in the night and 
launching desperate surprise attacks. Besides the danger of war they 
had to endure the rigorous mountain climate, inadequately clothed 
and badly fed. Knowing all this, I was surprised to find many of the 
soldiers in this tough band of desperadoes were gentle boys with a 
wistful look in their eyes. One nineteen-year-old peasant, who had 
thrown a grenade among twelve sleeping men the night before, 
blushed as he handed me a bunch of wild flowers; another, who had 
held a machine-gun position single-handed for forty-eight hours, 
showed me a poem he had written extolling the beauties of nature. 
They talked about the war with great optimism, saying that soon 
their army would be strong enough to take the offensive and that 
before Christmas the Republican flag would be flying in every vil- 
lage in Spain. Bright visions of victory and a final lasting peace had 
kept their morale high through all the long winter months. I left, 
thinking what a strange mixture of emotions war produces; the more 
exalted man's ideals, the more savage the battle becomes. 


One of the most interesting trips I made was to the front where 
the International Brigades were fighting. This was on the Morata 
front where they were defending the Madrid- Valencia road, the last 
link between the capital and the outside world. Although Franco had 
launched fierce and repeated attacks, and the Republicans had suf- 
fered heavy loss of life, the lines had held. In May, this front was 
regarded as the most important sector in Spain and was commanded 
by a Soviet General. 

In spite of it being common knowledge that the Russians had sent 
nearly two thousand staff officers, technicians, airmen and tank ex- 
perts to train the Republican Army, the subject was taboo. Journal- 
ists were not allowed to come into contact with them and the head- 
quarters from which they operated was shrouded in secrecy. By 
accident I visited the Morata Headquarters and was "detained" there 
by the Soviet General for three days. 

It happened in an odd way. One afternoon I drove out to Morata 
with Kajsa, a Swedish girl, and Jerome Willis of the Agence 
(TEspagne. We got lost and instead of reaching Brigade Headquar- 
ters wound up before a ramshackle old mill which we discovered 
was serving as Divisional Headquarters. The sentry led us into a 
garden where we were confronted by the commanding officer, a 
middle-aged man with a broad Slavonic face and sullen green eyes. 
He had an interpreter with him and spoke a language I thought was 
Hungarian. His manner was cold and hostile and he curtly cut off 
our attempts at conversation. 

"Have many Fascist planes been over here?" Jerome asked. 

"They fly." 

"Do you think the enemy will make another drive soon?" 

"Who knows?" 

We explained that we hoped to talk to some of the American and 
English soldiers fighting in the Brigade but received a blunt refusal. 
"No visitors are permitted at the front." Although we argued that 
several journalists had been taken through the lines a few days before, 
it was to no avail. As we were leaving he walked over to one of the 
rose-bushes, snapped off a spray of flowers and handed them to me, 
saying, with a studied sarcasm apparent even through the mouth of 
the interpreter, "You can write your story from the garden. No one 


will know the difference; and here is a souvenir to remind you of 
your adventure at the front." 

I replied by passing the flowers to a surprised sentry and walking 
angrily out to the car. On the way home I asked Kajsa if the officer 
was a Hungarian, and she nodded; but the rest of the trip she was 
unusually quiet. 

I thought no more about the incident until a week later, when I 
was lunching in the Gran Via restaurant. A tall, serious-faced soldier 
spoke to me in English, introduced himself as "Santiago," and asked 
if I had paid a visit to Morata a few days previously. I nodded, and 
he said: "The commanding officer wishes to offer his apologies and 
says that perhaps you will come to lunch one day." I was surprised 
by the invitation and wondered what had caused the officer's sudden 
change of heart. I wasn't particularly anxious to go, but as it was my 
only chance to visit Brigade lines I accepted; the following noon 
Santiago arrived in the pouring rain to drive me out. 

Santiago was a quiet, melancholy man of Hungarian birth. I later 
learned he was the black sheep of a powerful family who had dis- 
inherited him when he joined the Communists and took part in the 
Bela Kun uprising; since then he had been wandering forlornly round 
the world as an agitator. During the drive he told me that the com- 
manding officer was also a Hungarian but that he had lived in Russia 
since childhood. He had taken part in the Revolution, continued a 
military career, and was now a general in the Soviet Army. He had 
arrived in Spain in January and, although it was not officially ad- 
mitted, he was in charge of the entire Central Command. I told 
Santiago I had taken a dislike to him and he replied, u You mustn't 
judge him too quickly. He has never been out of Russia before and 
his manners are rough, but he is a good soldier." 

The General's manner was scarcely more cordial than before. 
He received me with a salutatory smile and led the way to the mess 
hall. The room was shabby and the paint was peeling off the walls: 
there was a leak in the ceiling and the raindrops dripped slowly into 
a large tin placed on the floor. Standing around a long table in the 
centre were about a dozen officers; eight blond-haired Russian staff 
officers, two Hungarians, two Spaniards and a Russian-born Ameri- 
can, David Jarrett, who acted as interpreter. I was introduced all 


round, but as only Santiago and David could speak English my con- 
versation was limited. 

We sat down to a lunch of partridges, fresh vegetables, bread and 
butter and wild strawberries. There was an air of great formality and 
I had a feeling everything had been carefully arranged, even to the 
large bowl of flowers in the middle of the table. I sat next to David 
Jarrett, a clean-cut man with a pleasant smile. He spoke eight lan- 
guages fluently and told me that he had given up a job in New York 
as a Court interpreter to come to Spain. General Gal (whether or not 
this was a pseudonym I don't know) didn't address me till lunch 
was nearly over, then he instructed David to translate the following 
remark: "I may take you to the front this afternoon, but first you 
will have to remove those gold bracelets you are wearing. The enemy 
would be sure to spot them." 

Everyone laughed and I seized the opportunity to press home the 
point about the front. "You are too soft," he replied. Then he looked 
disapprovingly at my black suede shoes. "You would get tired and 
want someone to carry you." 

He was deliberately provocative, but I managed to keep a civil 
tongue, and an hour later, much to my surprise, my request was 
granted. The General, David and I got into a car and started for 
the front. 

The front was about three miles away; it was raining hard, and as 
we neared the lines the woods on either side of the road became alive 
with tanks half hidden among the wet trees. Field-kitchens and first- 
aid stations were set up in the clearings and when we swung around 
a bend we passed a large truck with a container on top that looked 
like a gasolene tank; this was "the bath truck" that went up to the 
front once a week with gallons of hot water. 

The noise of gunfire grew louder and every now and then the 
dull grey sky lighted up with a flash as a shell travelled through the 
rain somewhere in the distance. At the bottom of a long slope our 
car stopped. The lines ran along the top of a hill and the ground 
between was scarred with shell-holes and mortar pits. There was the 
constant crack of rifle-fire and the bullets whined over our heads like 
angry wasps. The General explained that the climb up the hill in- 
volved a risk and told us to walk as quickly as possible. It was cer- 


tainly one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have had; several 
shells burst near us and the only thing that kept me from bolting in 
the opposite direction was fear of the General's contempt. 

When at last we reached the trenches we found them ankle deep 
in mud. They were deep, carefully-constructed lines that twisted 
and turned for four miles through the rolling fields. Men were stand- 
ing at intervals firing through the openings in the sandbags. None 
were equipped with mackintoshes or tin hats, but wore an assortment 
of sweaters and jackets with mufflers tied round their necks. Most of 
them were soaked to the skin. The General led the way through the 
mud and we passed soldiers of every creed and nationality: Germans, 
Slavs, Jews, Frenchmen, Italians, Englishmen and Americans. They 
were each formed into their own companies and as we went along 
the General shook hands with them, patted them on the back and 
made light remarks that David translated into half a dozen languages. 

The men looked strained and sick and I learned they had been in 
the front line for seventy-four days without a break. Most of them 
had been recruited by the Communist parties of the world and they 
struck me as a pathetic group. They had none of the swagger of the 
traditional legionnaire who fought for the joy of adventure; they 
were idealists and down-and-outs, many of them ill-suited for soldier- 
ing. They had fought bravely but already half their thirty thousand 
had been buried on the plains and plateaux of Castille. 

When we reached the American section the men crowded around 
eagerly and pressed me with questions about "the States." One of 
them was an American negro who had arrived at the front only a 
day or two before. The General asked him how he liked it and his 
dark face broke into a wide smile. "Ah appreciates de glory, suh, but 
to tell de truth ah was puffickly satisfied in de rear." 

There were factory workers from Massachusetts, miners from 
Pennsylvania and farmers from Mississippi. Their manners were 
light-hearted but their faces lined and worn. "You might suggest to 
the General we get a vacation," said one. "Not that we have any 
kick about the neighbourhood but the view is getting monotonous." 
I left wondering how many would ever see the American continent 
again and a few weeks later heard that three-quarters of them had 
been wiped out in a fresh attack. 


When we reached Headquarters again I tried to dry my shoes and 
get the mud off my clothes, then went to Santiago to arrange about 
starting back to Madrid. He looked embarrassed and said, "I don't 
think you can go back to-night." I told him I was leaving for Valen- 
cia in a few days, but he replied that the General had given orders 
that I was to remain. I thought this was only a polite way of extend- 
ing an invitation, but Santiago explained, "When you came out here 
the other day with Kajsa and Willis, the authorities telephoned from 
Madrid that you were on your way to Brigade lines and warned us 
to be careful what we showed you. You are not a Communist and 
you are suspect. That's why the General gave you the reception he 
did. He now says that since you are here, you must stay for three 
days and learn what we are fighting for." 

I argued heatedly, but Santiago told me it was no use, the General 
had made up his mind. "He wants to convert you," he explained. 

There was no way for me to get in touch with anyone in Madrid 
so I accepted the situation with as good grace as possible. I was given 
a small room with no windows, and the only furniture a hard cot 
with filthy blankets. David brought me some toothpaste and Santiago 
provided a comb and a bottle of Eau-de-Cologne. I had left Madrid 
in such a hurry that I had told no one where I was going and won- 
dered what they would think of my sudden disappearance. 

My education began at dinner. It was a strange setting with candles 
on the long wooden table throwing a pattern against the dilapidated 
walls and the babble of voices talking in four languages at once. The 
officers eyed me curiously, no doubt wondering how long I intended 
to be a visitor, but the General seemed highly amused by the situ- 
ation. Once or twice I caught him staring at me and David explained 
that I was the first American he had ever met. Halfway through 
dinner he made a remark to the waiter that caused surprise. There 
was a flurry of excitement as thick tumblers were distributed round 
the table, and finally, three bottles of champagne produced. When 
the glasses were filled, the General gave a toast: "Here's to the bour- 
geoisie! may we cut their throats and live as they do." He watched 
me as David translated the words and looked disappointed when I 
raised my glass. Then he asked, with sudden childishness, "Did you 
ever think you would find yourself drinking champagne with a Red 


Army general?" I shook my head, and he said: "I suppose in your 
bourgeois world you were taught that Bolsheviks were lacking in 
culture. It is untrue. We often drink champagne in Moscow." The 
Russian officers smiled and one of them made a remark that everyone 
laughed at. David said: "He says champagne is good but vodka is 

Coffee was served and the General motioned the mess waiter to 
pull up a chair and join us. He filled the soldier's glass with cham- 
pagne and turned to me: "In the Soviet Army all men are equal. The 
comrade here is in no way inferior because of his rank. We don't 
believe in the rigid caste system the democracies impose on their 
fighting forces." The Russian officers nodded and David explained 
that two of them were political commissars with the function of 
interpreting to the men the orders given by the officers. 

They were husky, blond-haired boys in their twenties and after 
dinner one of them pulled a snapshot out of his pocket and showed 
it me. It was a picture of a woman lying on a rug with a rose in her 
mouth. She had heavy black curls and a knee-length skirt. It was so 
much a caricature of the 1920 vamp I thought it must be a joke, but 
David explained it was the boy's wife. The General examined the 
picture over my shoulder and said that the Soviet Union need not 
be ashamed of its women folk. The boy looked pleased and tucked 
it back in his pocket. 

After dinner we went out and sat in the garden. It was hot and 
the smell of flowers was heavy. One of the soldiers played the 
ukelele and the Russians lay under the trees humming softly. Every 
now and then the sky lighted up and the quiet was broken by the 
rumble of artillery. Sometimes we could hear the shells like a deep, 
far-away sigh. There were footsteps on the garden path and a soldier 
came up through the darkness and saluted the General. He talked in 
Spanish, and when David translated everyone laughed: "The enemy 
want to borrow some books and magazines." 

The General shook his head and David explained they never 
granted any requests at night, for at night it was apt to be a trick. 
In the daytime, however, they had often sent books and papers across. 
They flew a white flag while an officer and man from each side met 
in the middle of no-man's land. Sometimes they stood talking for 


ten or fifteen minutes, but generally wound up by insulting one 
another. On the last occasion, the Republican soldier had pulled a 
fifty peseta note out of his pocket and handed it to the Rebel, telling 
him to buy some food for his half-starved brothers who were fighting 
to keep the rest of Spain in the same bedraggled condition that they 

During the next two days I passed away the time by going out to 
the shooting-range while the men had machine-gun practice and 
talking to the Brigade soldiers billeted in the mill. One of the soldiers 
was an Englishman, a dock labourer from Newcastle, and he told 
me his main reason for coming to Spain was a love of travel: "Just 
got bored with the missis, that's all," he said cheerfully. Since his 
arrival, however, he had acquired a great admiration for the Spaniards 
and showed me a diary he was keeping. The incident that had im- 
pressed him the most was the Spaniard who had stood in the middle 
of the street during a bombardment, nonchalantly picking his teeth 
with a match. 

In the afternoons I went to the village while Santiago ordered sup- 
plies for the mess. The town was always teeming with activity, a 
melee of soldiers, trucks and donkey-carts. The supply depot was in 
a large church in the middle of the town. The stone floors were 
stacked with tinned food, sugar, flour, oranges and enormous bins 
of bread. The walls were grey and bare where the paintings had been 
stripped away and the statues removed from the niches; and the 
altar, with its white and gold brocaded cloth, was used to weigh the 
butter on. 

At night the General liked to talk, and after the others had left 
the table, David and I stayed while he filled our glasses with cham- 
pagne and gave me lessons in Marxism. He told me he had hitherto 
considered it a sin to speak to anyone who did not share his views, 
but in my case he felt that perhaps I had been misled by a bourgeois 
education and might yet see the error of my way. He was fond of 
rolling phrases and told me he had sworn eternal enmity to the 
privileged classes of the world. "My life," he said, "is dedicated to 
the Revolution and my destiny will lead me to the far parts of the 
world. Before it sets I will see it rise in the splendid awakening of the 
working-classes." He asked me if I had ever read any of the great 


Russian writers, and when I mentioned the names of Tolstoi, Dos- 
toevski and Chekhov, he replied indignantly: '"Not our old-fashioned 
writers. Our great revolutionary writers." Here he mentioned a series 
of Bolshevik journalists that I was forced to admit I had never heard 
of. I gathered he lived a fairly comfortable life in Moscow, for he 
told me proudly a motor-car was "constantly at his disposal." His 
family had moved to the Ukraine when he was a child and he had 
been brought up in miserably poor circumstances. When he talked 
of the days before the Revolution, he said bitterly: "I used to live 
like an animal. Now I live like a human being." 

He lost no opportunity to impress me with his views and proph- 
esied that the Revolution was spreading so rapidly, in another year 
he would be in America. He cautioned me to be on the right side 
when the day came. David interpreted these long conversations, but 
on one occasion he deserted me for nearly half an hour and I was 
left staring helplessly at the General. The silence grew so awkward 
I dug into my bag and drew out an ivory charm which I had got in 
India. It was a carved ornament of Ganesh, the elephant god of luck, 
and one of my most prized possessions. I showed it to the General, 
thinking it would amuse him. 

He smiled and put it in his pocket, and I suddenly realized he 
thought it was a gift. Later I told David what had happened and he 
said he would try to recover it. He went to the General but found 
him proudly showing it to his officers and did not have the heart to 
explain the mistake. I daresay he has it to this day. 

The General evidently thought his instructions in Marxism had 
been effective, for when at last the three days were up and I went 
to say good-bye to him, he gave me final advice: "Read the works of 
Lenin, all thirty-seven volumes. When you are well instructed, join 
the Party, but conceal your views from your family. You will be 
useful as an under-cover agent." He walked over to the bowl of 
flowers, picked out a red rose and handed it to me: "This flower was 
stained in the blood of the Revolution. Be faithful to it." I thanked 
him, and as I started for the door he made a remark that David trans- 
lated. "He says he is sorry you are leaving; you may return when 
you wish." I thanked him again and as we were walking down the 
steps he flung another remark after us and David laughed. "He says 


he understands women. You won't return, but you will boast to your 
friends that a Red Army General took a fancy to you." 

A few months later I was told he had returned to Moscow. 
Whether he escaped the many purges that continued to sweep the 
Soviet Army, I never heard. 


Chapter VI 


had caused a turmoil of excitement. The Press Bureau had been 
unable to discover any trace of me until a few hours before my 
return when someone casually remarked I had last been seen driving 
out of Madrid in a car with Santiago. As Soviet headquarters were 
forbidden to journalists, alarm turned into deep suspicion, and when 
I arrived at the hotel I found a message to ring up Ilse Kulczak, one 
of the censors. She asked me where I had been, and when I told her, 
her voice grew menacing: "The authorities are greatly displeased. 
You will hear more from us." There was a sharp click at the other 
end of the line. 

I repeated this brief conversation to Tom Delmer and was sur- 
prised to see he took a serious view of it. "Whatever you do," he 
warned me, "don't drive to Valencia in a car by yourself. I think 
they have an idea you are a spy, and if they have, they won't hesitate 
to act ruthlessly. Road accidents are often the best way of settling an 

I thought Tom was being unduly pessimistic and, since I had 
already arranged to drive to Valencia with Sydney Franklin, thought 
no more about it. On the morning of our departure a Danish journal- 
ist asked if he could have a lift and the three of us set off together. 

The journalist's real name I never discovered, for he was known 
in Madrid as "The Trembling Dane." Although he had been in the 
capital only three days, the bombardment had completely unnerved 
him. He had been unlucky, for everywhere he went a shell seemed 
to fall, and once a dozen people were killed a few yards from him 



in the main square. He had locked himself up in his room at the 
Florida and refused to go outdoors until Kajsa persuaded him that it 
wasn't as bad as he thought. She took him to Chicote's bar to restore 
his morale, but he hadn't been inside more than ten minutes before 
two soldiers got into an argument and one of them pulled out a gun 
and shot the other. After this incident his one idea was to leave 
Madrid as quickly as possible. As we neared Valencia he sighed with 
relief at the thought of a peaceful night. He was so grateful to Sydney 
and me for having given him a lift, he offered to take me to an inter- 
view he had arranged with Del Vayo, the Foreign Minister. 

I don't remember much about the interview; it took place at eight 
o'clock in the War Ministry, and Del Vayo made the usual plea for 
more support from the democracies. But as it was over and we were 
walking down the broad stone stairs, we heard a whistle and a crash. 
The building shook, the lights went out and glass broke over the 
floor. There were several more crashes and people came streaming 
out of their offices and crowded down the stairway. At first I didn't 
realize what was happening, but the Dane grabbed my arm and 
screamed, "Les avions" His voice carried through the halls and 
caused considerable panic. I tried to calm him but he went on shout- 
ing in French: "Ou est la cave?" and tried to push his way through 
the crowd to the stairs. As this was the first serious air raid Valencia 
had ever had, and there were no shelters to go to, everyone was at 
a loss what to do. Most of the people managed to make their way to 
the ground floor and stood silently in the hallway. The Trembling 
Dane squeezed into a corner and when he lighted a cigarette I saw 
that his face was bathed with perspiration. 

The bombardment lasted only seven or eight minutes. There were 
a few more thuds and then silence. I suggested to the Dane that we 
try to find our way to the Press Bureau a few blocks down the street, 
but he stood against the wall moaning and refused to leave the build- 
ing. I finally started off by myself. 

It was an eerie scene: the dark forms standing huddled in door- 
ways, the sound of women crying, and the dust still rising in the 
blackness where a bomb had fallen opposite the British Embassy two 
blocks away. The deserted streets were beginning to resound to the 

51 E X I T V I S A 

clang of ambulances and the shrill sirens of the police cars, and 
already men with flares had run to dig out bodies from the debris. 

In spite of the atmosphere of terror and destruction, life was quick 
to regain a normal bent, for even as I stumbled along the desolate 
streets a small Spaniard approached me and said hopefully, "Good 
evening, Senorita, how would you like a boy friend?" When I told 
him that I had an amigo waiting for me at the Press Bureau he 
sighed, then gallantly escorted me the rest of the way down the 
street, bent low over my hand and bade me good night with a 

The next day we learned that the casualties amounted to about a 
hundred killed and wounded; Valencia had at last been baptized in 
the war that swept the rest of Spain. In the morning the Trembling 
Dane came over and said good-bye. He seemed badly shaken and told 
me he had stayed in the Ministry hallway all night. 

My plane was not leaving until the following day. With all the 
excitement I had completely forgotten Tom Delmer's warning. That 
afternoon, however, I had a message that someone in the lobby wished 
to speak to me. He was a man I had never seen before. He was a 
German Communist who worked for the secret police. He asked me 
to come across the street and have a drink and I followed with a 
sinking heart, wondering if it would end in arrest. It was a disjointed 
conversation, for he told me my dossier had arrived from Madrid 
that morning and it showed I had spent a good deal of time at various 
army headquarters. "I want to know," he said, "why you are leaving 
Spain so soon after these trips?" I told him I had only intended to 
stay in Madrid a couple of months as I had a series of articles to write 
in Paris. "We have a nice new gaol at Albacete," he smiled, showing 
a flash of white teeth. "You could write them just as well from 

I replied lightly, as though I thought he were joking, and when 
I got up to leave he made no move to stop me. The next morning 
I flew to France. 

Not until a year later, when I returned to Barcelona, did I dis- 
cover from Use Kulczak that my arrest had been touch and go; the 
secret police were instructed to follow me in Valencia while the 


Madrid authorities debated whether or not to detain me. Even though 
the Press Bureau was convinced I was a spy, they had finally decided 
the amount of publicity given to the arrest of an American journalist 
would do more harm than good. I didn't know these things at the 
time; nevertheless, with a sigh of relief, I stepped on to the aerodrome 
at Toulouse and once again breathed the air of a country at peace. 

Part Two 


Chapter I 



after danger has passed. For weeks, in Paris, the sound of a car back- 
firing, or the drone of a vacuum cleaner, gave me a foolish start. 
I wrote my articles in a flat off the Champs-Elysees, belonging to 
the Baroness X, a French woman I had known for several years. It 
was peaceful there with the sun streaming through the balcony win- 
dows and the only noise the early morning chatter of the concierge 
bargaining with the baker. Spain had left a deeper mark than I had 
realized; from a distance the war seemed more tragic than when I had 
been in the midst of it. In Madrid, life had moved so fast there had 
been little time to think. Now, memories were more vivid than actual 
happenings. Fleeting, half- forgotten scenes crowded into my mind: 
a particular expression on someone's face, a tone of voice or a casual 
sentence, that at the time had seemed to make little impression. 

I had no "line" to take on Spain as it had not yet become a political 
story for me. I was much more interested in the human side the 
forces that urged people to such a test of endurance and the para- 
doxical mixture of fierce and gentle qualities their suffering produced. 
I was still surprised at how impersonal war was. All the old cliches 
about war starting with the beat of a drum and people surging to the 
colours in an emotional wave of hatred seemed to me untrue. Men 
killed from conviction, not passion; even in Spain, a man shot his 
brother not because he disliked him, but because he disagreed with 

I wrote about the things I had seen and heard but did not try to 
interpret them. Although it was not my war, I dreaded the thought 
of visiting the Franco side and plunging into an atmosphere where 



triumph meant disaster for the people I had left. On the other hand, 
I was curious to hear the Nationalist point of view and felt that until 
I did I would not have a proper perspective. 

I was told I didn't stand a chance of getting a visa for Nationalist 
Spain; the press censorship was strict and no journalist who had been 
tainted by the Republic had ever been allowed to cross to Franco's 
side. Nevertheless, I decided to try it and was told that my best hope 
was to go to the French frontier and put in an application there. 

My sister had come to Europe for the summer. After making a 
trip through Holland, Germany and Czechoslovakia, she joined me 
and we went to Italy for a few weeks' holiday, and then to Saint 
Jean-de-Luz, a small town on the French Basque coast twelve miles 
from the Spanish border. The British Ambassador to Spain, Sir Henry 
Chilton, had a house a few miles away. We had known his daughter, 
Anne, in New York, and through them I met Franco's agent, the 
Conde de Mamblas. On looking back I suppose I took an unfair 
advantage of the Count, for he was an aristocrat of the old school 
whose view on the war was confined to the simple philosophy that 
General Franco had the support of "ladies and gentlemen." Having 
met me under the auspices he did, I suppose he bracketed me as 
"safe." He didn't reply that my request was out of the question, but 
said thoughtfully: "After the chaos of Red Spain the contrast would 
give you the valuable material for articles." He told me I would 
have an answer within two weeks. 

My sister and I settled down to enjoy ourselves. Although Saint 
Jean-de-Luz had once been a popular resort, in the summer of 1937 
it lay too close to the Franco-Spanish frontier and now it had an 
air of desertion. Pleasure-seekers had drifted away, the hotels were 
half empty, and the smart shops were boarded up. The beach, usually 
crowded with gay umbrellas, had only a sprinkling of people, and 
the atmosphere of summer frivolity was replaced by a dozen sleek 
British warships anchored in the harbour for patrol duty along the 
Spanish coast. In spite of the outwardly quiet atmosphere life was 
not dull. The Bar Basque, a small restaurant on the main street of 
Saint Jean-de-Luz, was a popular meeting-place, and every afternoon 
and evening it was crowded with journalists, naval officers, diplo- 
mats, Spanish agents and aristocrats who sighed for the restoration 


of the old regime. My sister and I made friends with Geoffrey 
(Tommy) Thompson, the British First Secretary, and we often met 
Anne Chilton and her fiance, Tom Dupree, an honorary attache at 
the Embassy, at the Bar Basque for parties. On Saturday nights there 
was a three-piece orchestra and everyone danced in the crowded 
rooms until the small hours of the morning. At twelve o'clock the 
news was switched on and a sharp Spanish voice cut through the 
din: "Ar niba, Espana!!" and then the bulletin followed, always 
consisting of a series of brilliant successes by "nuestros gloriosos 
soldados" At the end of these broadcasts the Nationalist Anthem 
was played and the Franco supporters in the room stood rigidly at 
attention, their arms outstretched in the Fascist salute. One night 
after the news bulletin one of the journalists persuaded the French 
orchestra to play "Valencia." They swung into the tune with gusto: 
half the people joined hands and went rollicking around the room, 
while the other half shook their fists and protested angrily. Finally, 
the manager stopped the music. Someone accused him of being pro- 
Franco, but he replied that he was not interested in war "Only in 
keeping my clientele," he said. "People's views are no concern of 


This was the general attitude about Spain that summer. Apart from 
the extremists (the supporters of Bolshevism and Fascism), most peo- 
ple refused to take sides in a conflict which seemed to them a purely 
internal affair. "Just a lot of damned Spaniards cutting each other's 
throats," was the popular summarization; the fact that Germany was 
sharpening her claws on Spanish soil had not yet caused alarm to 
many Englishmen and Frenchmen, who regarded it chiefly as a 
crusade against the Bolshevik menace. 

One of the few exceptions was Tommy Thompson. I think his 
original antipathy for Franco's supporters started with the English- 
man's instinctive dislike of uniforms and military display. The click- 
ing of heels and the Fascist saluting in Nationalist Spain, the ubiqui- 
tous posters of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, caused him particular 
irritation, not to mention the grandiose talk of future conquests. Long 
before anyone else was taking the situation seriously, he was sound- 
ing a grave note of warning; to him the Spanish Civil war was taking 
the shape of a fight against England. 


The Chancery of the British Embassy was established in a small 
grocery shop in Hendaye, overlooking the International Bridge. At 
one end, the French tricolours fluttered in the breeze and at the other 
flew the red and yellow stripes of Franco Spain. The barriers on both 
sides were shut and few cars passed over, but somehow there was 
always an air of drama. The French guards paced up and down with 
an important stride while the Spanish Guardia Civile in their shiny 
patent-leather hats stood in clusters, smoking cigarettes and gazing 
curiously at the outside world. It gave me an odd feeling to see the 
soldiers of Franco's army. These were the people that I had thought 
of for three months as "the enemy." These were the people whose 
machine-gun-fire we had ducked, whose shells we had cursed, and 
whose planes we had run from. 

The American and French Embassies were also near the frontier. 
They had followed the lead of the British Embassy and now all three 
were in the peculiar position of being accredited to Republican 
Spain, but firmly established in France with their main source of 
information derived from the opposition. I don't know how much 
the fact that the three democracies had no direct ambassadorial con- 
tact with the Republic affected the course of the Spanish war; for 
two years, however, most of the work of the ambassadors was limited 
to making futile representations on the subject of non-intervention 
and trying unsuccessfully to arrange for the exchange of prisoners. 

Tommy Thompson refused to be done in by the situation and 
managed to gather a good deal of information from journalists back 
from the front. Handicapped as he was, he had an accurate apprecia- 
tion of the situation and gave his Government a forecast of future 
events which has since been borne out. 

During the next three weeks I received no word from Nationalist 
Headquarters. Franco's northern campaign was in full swing. His 
troops had smashed the iron ring at Bilbao in June, and now it was 
rumoured that he would soon begin a push against Santander. The 
British Navy had been evacuating thousands of refugees from the 
stricken areas and the officers came back with pathetic stories of the 
misery and confusion. One of the warships had picked up a man in a 
rowboat; he had been hiding in the mountains for over a year and 
had built the boat himself in order to escape the Franco territory. 


They told us they had kept him aboard until they sighted the Jupiter, 
a Nationalist warship, and then turned him over. They said that they 
got most of their war news by intercepting the journalists' despatches 
radioed from Spain to London; the crew of the Royal Oak (which 
has since been sunk by the Germans) were highly indignant at being 
described by a Daily Express reporter as "nursemaids" to the refugees. 

I had begun to fear that my visa for Nationalist Spain would never 
arrive. One night I drove over to Biarritz for dinner with Tommy 
Thompson. We went to Sonny's bar, and while we were having a 
cocktail, a young Englishman, Rupert Bellville, came in. Rupert had 
spent several years in Spain, where he had taken an interest in bull- 
fighting, and at the beginning of the war had joined Franco's army 
and fought for a few months with a Falangist regiment. I had met 
him in London and when I told him I was waiting for permission to 
go to Spain, he suggested that I come with him. He had his own aero- 
plane and was planning to fly to San Sebastian on the following day. 
I replied that I hadn't yet got a visa for Spain, but he waved it aside 
as an unnecessary formality. He said he knew the authorities well 
and could guarantee there wouldn't be any trouble. He added that 
he would fly me to different parts of the country so that I could 
see how much the Italians and Germans were doing in the way of 
building aerodromes. 

The proposition sounded slightly mad, for it seemed odd that a 
private individual should be allowed to fly at random around a 
country at war. On the other hand, Spain 'was slightly mad. Having 
given up hope of getting a visa, I decided this might be the only 
chance I would have to see the Nationalist side. Sir Henry Chilton 
and Tommy Thompson warned me strongly against the trip, but 
in the end I went. 

Tony Mackeson, an English business man and a friend of Rupert, 
was another passenger and the three of us left the Biarritz aerodrome 
the following afternoon. When we got off the ground and headed 
towards San Sebastian, Rupert picked up a gin bottle, took a swig, 
and said: "We may get shot at by the anti-aircraft batteries. Shall 
we fly high or fly low?" Tony replied: "Keep low. We won't have 
so far to drop." 

In spite of this beginning, the flight was peaceful and took over 


twenty minutes. Rupert, an expert pilot, flew only a few hundred 
feet about the mountains that ringed San Sebastian. Not wishing to 
attract anti-aircraft fire by circling round the aerodrome, he cut his 
engine and side-slipped on to the field in a remarkable if precarious 

Tony and I drew a breath of relief and got out of the plane to 
find half a dozen officials running towards us. Rupert stepped for- 
ward and showed his papers, but instead of being welcomed by a 
hospitable flow of Spanish (Ruperto, ?ni a?mgo!) J he was told his 
plane would be confiscated and that all three of us were under arrest. 
The commander of the aerodrome said we had no right to enter a 
military zone without the proper credentials and the case would 
have to be investigated. Rupert finally persuaded him to let us stay 
at the Maria Christina Hotel in San Sebastian until the matter was 
cleared up. 

For the next twenty-four hours we were kept under strict surveil- 
lance by the secret police. Rupert telephoned numerous friends in 
Salamanca, but none of them had sufficient authority to intervene. 
We drove down to the International Bridge to try to get back to 
France, but learned that for the last twelve hours all traffic had been 
suspended as the push to Santander had started. Through an Ameri- 
can friend who chanced to pass, I sent a message to Tommy Thomp- 
son, but wasn't very hopeful about his getting it. 

I can't say I enjoyed myself much. The only visas on my passport 
were stamped Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona; I realized if we 
were sent to gaol I would find an explanation difficult. Although 
Rupert ran into several bull-fighters in Chicote's bar and settled down 
to enjoy himself, I spent most of the time in the hotel. What little I 
saw of San Sebastian offered a startling contrast to the shabbiness of 
Valencia. The Maria Christina was filled with well-to-do Spaniards; 
young girls with their duennas and smiling officers in well-cut uni- 
forms with neatly-polished boots. There were expensive cars in the 
streets and the restaurants were crowded with smartly-dressed 
women. General Franco's portrait hung in all the cafes with Mon- 
archist flags crossed above it. Music and dancing were forbidden by 
the Church so there was little for people to do but sit in the cafes. 
There seemed to be no shortage of food, for with the exception of 


two meatless days a week the menus in the hotel were long and 

Most of the time I was too worried to take any interest in my sur- 
roundings, and when at last I got a message from the porter saying 
that Seiior Thompson was in the lobby I felt like a convict with a 
dim hope of escape. Tommy, who was accompanied by a Mr. 
Goodman, the British Vice-Consul at Saint Jean-de-Luz, was in a 
bad temper and mumbled something about thank God Europe wasn't 
full of women journalists. He said that he and Mr. Goodman had had 
an unpleasant half-hour with the Military Governor at Irun, but had 
finally persuaded him to let us out. Rupert, however, was still opti- 
mistic; he didn't want to leave without his plane and Tony decided 
to stay with him. This made Tommy madder than ever. 

When I got back to Saint Jean-de-Luz I looked for my sister to tell 
her about the trip. I found she was in no mood to listen, for she had 
just been to a bull-fight in Bayonne with Major Yeats-Brown, the 
author of Bengal Lancer. She had been badly shaken by the experi- 
ence and had taken three aspirin tablets and gone to bed. The horses 
weren't padded and their insides had spilled over the ring. "And do 
you know what the Major kept saying?" she asked indignantly, 
" 'Don't worry, my dear, the horses are not unhappy their ears are 
still standing up!' " 

A few days later my sister left for America and I went back to 
Spain. This time everything was done in the proper way: a long 
examination by the Customs officials at the bridge at Irun, photo- 
graphs taken, and finger-prints made. At ten o'clock I was in a sleep- 
ing-car bound for Salamanca. 


Chapter II 



Spain to the other. Although it was apparent that the polite exchange 
of notes between London, Berlin and Rome on non-intervention was 
a farce, I was not prepared for such an open flaunting of the Fascist 
alliance. In Salamanca, the quiet old university town, which Gen- 
eral Franco had chosen as his headquarters, hotels, bars and restau- 
rants blazed with swastikas and the colours of Savoy. Shops bore 
signs that said: "Mann spricht Deutsch" and many of the buildings 
were scrawled with "Viva il Duce." The Gran Hotel was decorated 
with posters of the Dictators, odd in the contrast they offered; 
Mussolini in a steel helmet with his chin thrust out, was stern and 
belligerent, while Hitler stared wistfully into space calling on Europe 
to defend itself against Bolshevism. 

The scene of the hotel lobby was a cosmopolitan one. German 
colonels sat solemnly drinking ctfe-au-lait while Spanish general 
staff-officers, with bright blue sashes tied round their waists, strode 
importantly across the marble flood. Italians, booted and spurred, 
usually with a girl on each arm, came jingling down the stairs, and 
Foreign Legionaries in green shirts, their caps tipped jauntily to one 
side, argued with the desk clerk for rooms. It was difficult to get 
rooms at the Gran Hotel as most of the rooms were occupied by the 
Germans. The top floor was used as German Headquarters and 
guarded by Guardia Civile in shiny hats and with long rifles. I wan- 
dered up there by mistake and a German officer hustled me quickly 
down the stairs, telling me that my presence was strictly verboten. 

The atmosphere of the hotel lobby was one of boredom and sus- 
picion. Newcomers were eyed warily, and on the wall was a sign 



which said: "Sh! Spies!" It added that if anyone should attempt to 
discuss the military situation to denounce him immediately and thus 
save your country. The military situation, however, was discussed 
twenty-four hours a day; passionately by the Spaniards, boastfully 
by the Italians and ponderously by the Germans. Every night at 
midnight crowds gathered in the great square where loud-speakers 
broadcast news of the front in half a dozen languages. The spectacle 
was varied, for there were Requetes in bright red berets, Falangistas 
in dark blue uniforms with red tassels swinging from their caps, and 
Moors, some in dirty puttees and turbans, others in red fezes and 
sky-blue robes that swept the ground as they walked. A calm de- 
scended on the square when the bulletin was read and at the end the 
Nationalist Anthem was played with the crowd at attention, their 
hands raised in the Fascist salute. There was complete confidence in 
a Franco victory. So much so that a notice in one of the English 
newspapers stating that the odds were "slightly" in favour of Franco 
was the cause of great amusement. 

At this period, August 1937, there was every reason for National- 
ist jubilation. Franco's northern campaign was going well, and when 
it was finished a hundred thousand men would be released and a 
large supply of artillery, tanks and aeroplanes to bolster his army on 
the Aragon. With these new forces it was predicted that he would 
be able to drive through Catalonia, separate Barcelona from Valencia 
and in all likelihood bring the war to an end by the spring. 

Italian forces, however, and the help of the German Air Force 
and staff, were indispensable to him, and for this reason Great 
Britain's attempts at non-intervention were reviled as the blackest 
treachery. Somewhat paradoxically, Spaniards enjoyed speaking 
cynically of Italy's fighting ability, but the fact remained that it was 
Italian and German aircraft that had smashed the iron ring at Bilboa 
and that three regular Italian army divisions were now pressing the 
northern campaign to a close. 

General Franco was well aware of these facts and Italian and 
German diplomats were treated with marked esteem. I arrived in 
Salamanca on the same day that the new Italian Ambassador presented 
his credentials, and that night there was a large demonstration in the 
Square. The buildings were lighted with torches in the same fashion 


as in the Piazza Venezia at Rome and hundreds of blue-shirted Falan- 
gist soldiers formed a cordon to hold the crowds back. The Ambas- 
sador in a black Fascist uniform, a tassel swinging from his cap, made 
a speech from a central balcony; it was climaxed by a startling dem- 
onstration of Moorish cavalry who came thundering through the 
Square, their white robes flying in the moonlight. 

As the drive to Santander was the first major role the Italians had 
played since their ignominious defeat at Guadalajara, they were jubi- 
lant with success. Three days after I arrived in Salamanca, Pablo 
Merry del Val, the chief of the Foreign Press Bureau, rang up and 
said the city would fall within twenty-four hours. Most of the 
journalists were already in the north and he had arranged for me to 
meet them and cover the triumphal entry. 

I left Salamanca in the afternoon in a car driven by Ignacio Ro- 
salies, a Barcelona millionaire, who spoke English fluently and had 
volunteered his services as a press officer. We had hoped to reach 
Santander in the early hours of the morning, but when we had gone 
about a hundred miles we were stopped by sentries and told there 
was an unconfirmed report that fighting was still going on along the 
main road, somewhere in the vicinity of Reinosa. They advised us 
to swing round by Bilboa and travel along the coast. As this meant 
we wouldn't reach Santander until the next afternoon, I suggested 
taking a chance on the other, but Rosalies refused, saying he couldn't 
endanger my life. When I argued with him, he turned on me accus- 
ingly: "That's the trouble with you American correspondents. If 
you get captured, nothing happens to you, but I'm a Spaniard if 
I'm caught, I'm shot." 

This put me in a poor position to argue and we arrived in Bilbao 
the next morning to find that the Press cars had left for Santander 
several hours before. No one was authorized to give us the necessary 
safe conduct papers to follow, but after a long conversation with the 
police it was thought that permits might be produced in an hour or 
so. Precious minutes were slipping away, but I was familiar enough 
with Spanish red tape to know there was nothing to do but wait. 

Rosalies was upset, for he had never been a press officer before 
and it looked as though his first assignment was going to be a flop. 
He racked his brains to give me something to write about and finally 


conceived the idea of driving to Guernica, a few miles from Bilbao. 
The town had been destroyed several months before and was the 
subject of bitter controversy; the Republicans claimed that the Na- 
tionalists had bombed it and the Nationalists claimed that the Repub- 
licans had burnt it. Each side played it up as one of the great atroci- 
ties of the war. Rosalies asked me if I had been subjected to the lying 
Valencia propaganda and said: "Now you can see for yourself." 

We arrived in Guernica to find it a lonely chaos of timber and 
brick, like an ancient civilization in process of being excavated. There 
were only three or four people in the streets. One old man was stand- 
ing inside an apartment house that had four sides to it but an interior 
that was only a sea of bricks. It was his job to clear away the debris 
which seemed a life's work, for with each brick he threw over his 
shoulder, he stopped and mopped his forehead. Accompanied by 
Rosalies I went up to him and asked if he had been in the town dur- 
ing the destruction. He nodded his head and when I asked what had 
happened, waved his arms in the air and declared that the sky had 
been black with planes "Aviones" he said: "halianos y Alemanes" 
Rosalies was astonished. 

"Guernica was burned," he contradicted heatedly. The old man, 
however, stuck to his point, insisting that after a four-hour bom- 
bardment there was little left to burn. Rosalies moved me away. 
"He's a Red," he explained indignantly. 

We returned to Bilbao and to our surprise found the permits 
ready. We learned that Franco's troops were entering the city at 
that very moment. As it was only seventy miles away, with any luck, 
we could still arrive in time to see the "celebration." Franco's north- 
ern army totalled about thirty thousand men, the spearhead of which 
was three Italian divisions (The Black Flames, the Black Arrows, and 
the Twenty-third of March Division) numbering about eighteen 
thousand; the rest was made up of two battalions of Moors, two bat- 
talions of Requetes and six or seven mixed squadrons of Spanish and 
Moorish cavalry. The bulk of the troops were entering Santander 
from the south so that for the first half of our journey the road was 
fairly clear. The retreating army had blown up most of the bridges, 
however, and we had several precarious crossings on temporary 
structures thrown hastily over the river-beds. 


The countryside was desolate and sad. We passed innumerable 
farmhouses wrecked by bombs and shells and a straggling stream of 
refugees heading for unknown destinations. One family had all their 
worldly possessions piled high on the back of a cow; others had wheel- 
barrows and donkey-carts, and still others trudged wearily along 
with their bundles tied to a stick carried over their shoulders. Many 
of the villages had been deserted; the doors were locked, the shutters 
drawn and the only sign of life a few half-starved dogs. Rosalies 
explained that the Reds forced the people to evacuate in order to 
immobilize the villages for the Nationalist troops. I regarded this 
sceptically, for I had heard enough on the Republican side to know 
the terror with which the ordinary people regarded a Fascist or 
Moorish occupation. 

Farther on we had a small illustration of Moorish discipline when 
we detoured into a small town off the main road to find thirty or 
forty of them looting an abandoned village. They were coming out 
of the houses, their arms filled with an odd assortment of knick- 
knacks; one soldier had a kitchen stool over his shoulder and an egg- 
beater in his pocket; another, a child's doll and an old pair of shoes. 
Several Moors were sitting on the curb, bending around a packet 
of playing cards, admiring the brightly-coloured queens and knaves. 

Farther along, the main road became more congested. We passed 
a long line of Italian army lorries and a demolished tank turned 
upside down. One of the drivers was standing on the running-board 
tipping back a bottle of wine. As we went by he raised the bottle 
and shouted: "Viva il Duce" Rosalies flushed a little and said sourly, 
"They don't often get a chance to celebrate." 

About twenty miles from Santander we turned a bend and came 
upon several hundred Republican Army prisoners, crowded together 
in a clearing at the side of the road. Their faces were unshaven and 
grimy and their clothes in rags. They looked half starved and many 
of them had their arms and legs done up in dirty bandages. A Fascist 
truck was standing by the side of the road and the officers began to 
distribute bread and tins of meat and sardines. There was a scramble 
for the food; the men opened the tins with their knives and began to 
eat ravenously. They offered a pitiful contrast to the last Republican 
soldiers I had seen. Gone were the exuberant spirits and the virile 


hatred of Fascism; now there was only exhaustion and subservience 
and a future that lay in the grim confines of a prison camp. 

We finally reached Santander to find that the Italians were holding 
a victory parade. Although the parade had been going on three hours 
and the main part of it was over, tanks, trucks and armoured cars 
were still thundering through the squares. A bewildered population 
lined the streets and watched with open mouths while pictures of 
Mussolini were plastered on the buildings and black-plumed Italians 
on motor-cycles roared down the streets followed by several bat- 
talions of steel-helmeted troops. 

Santander presented an amazing spectacle. The main squares had 
been badly bombed and the debris had turned many of the streets 
into dump yards. It was hot and dry and as the lorries rolled by pillars 
of dust rose into the air and hung over the crowd like a grey pall. 
All variations of human emotion seemed to be thrown together in 
a crazy conglomeration: there were half-starved refugees, vociferous 
Italians, wretched prisoners, rejoicing Fifth Columnists, excited chil- 
dren and weeping women. The city was in an appalling condition. 
The water mains had been destroyed and most of the food supplies 
exhausted for over ten days. Shops and restaurants were boarded up 
and the population had lived on a limited ration of rice. The entrance 
of the conquering army, with their guns and motor-cycles gaily 
decorated with flowers and wreaths, struck an almost sinister note. 

At every turn there was a sharp and almost horrifying contrast. 
Already Franco's troops were wandering about the town, pulling 
down the Republican flags. Hundreds of Nationalist supporters who 
had been trapped in the city for more than a year crowded the 
streets laughing and crying. Dozens of balconies had become alive 
with red and yellow mantillas, forming the Monarchist colours; 
posters crying "Viva Franco" blotted out the faded Republican call 
to arms. Groups of girls ran into the streets and hugged the National- 
ist officers and a band of street urchins shouted at the passers-by and 
gave them the Fascist salute. 

But the other side of the story was a desolate one. You had only 
to wander along the wharves to see the thousands of refugees sitting 
in a litter of debris, their bundles and bags piled up beside them, gaz- 
ing on the celebration with tears running down their cheeks; or into 


the empty markets and deserted hotels to see the hostile stares of the 
street vendors or waitresses, or by the gaols to see the long column 
of women and children patiently waiting for news of the prisoners. 
One of the most ironical sights was the hospital that stood in the 
main square: watching from the windows were dozens of wounded 
Republican soldiers, with a grandstand view of the celebration. 

I suppose there were many hundreds of people who wished only 
to be left in peace and who changed their loyalties over night to 
whichever side was in power. When we were standing on the 
crowded pavement watching the parade, Rosalies moved away to 
speak to a friend and I turned to the Spaniard next to me who was 
cheering loudly, and said, falteringly: "Como le gustan los Italianos?" 
("What do you think of the Italians?") "Oh, we like them," he 
replied. Then he winked and said, "De otra mcmera . . ." ("If we 
don't . . ."), and here he drew his finger suggestively across his 

We had another illustration of this when we drove down to the 
garage to get some petrol. When the tank was filled, the garage 
attendant absent-mindedly gave us the clenched-fist greeting of the 
Popular Front. In the middle of it his face turned red with embarrass- 
ment, his arm went forward and his hand opened into the flat palm 
of the Fascist salute. 

Rosalies had a summer house on the outskirts of the town which 
he hadn't seen for a year. After wandering about the streets for sev- 
eral hours, he suggested we drive out there and try to find something 
to eat. It was a large villa by the sea; when we reached the drive, the 
caretaker's wife recognized Rosalies and called excitedly to her hus- 
band. Both ran out and flung their arms around him, hugging him 
with joy. They told us that during the last month the house had been 
occupied by Aguirre, the Basque President, who used it as his head- 
quarters. He had left Santander only the day before in a private 
plane and twelve hours later General Davilla, the Commander of the 
Northern Army, had moved in with his staff. 

The only food in the house was half a loaf of bread and a few tins 
of Russian meat which Aguirre had left behind. While the caretaker's 
wife was preparing it we went inside and talked to Davilla's staff 
officers. They were tall, good-looking Spaniards who spoke enthu- 


siastically of the victory and predicted the end of the war by the 
spring. One of them said he had heard that America was anti-Franco 
and prophesied that unless the United States mended its ways the 
sickle and hammer would soon be flying over the White House. 
"There's only one way to treat a Red," he said, "shoot him." 

Rosalies described our drive along the coast and told them of the 
incident at Guernica. "The town was full of Reds," he said. "They 
tried to tell us it was bombed, not burnt." The tall staff officer 
replied: "But, of course, it was bombed. We bombed it and bombed 
it and bombed it, and bueno, why not?" 

Rosalies looked astonished and when we were back in the car again 
heading for Bilbao, he said: "I don't think I would write about that 
if I were you." 

The drive home was more congested than on the way down and 
we again had countless detours to make. At one bridge we were 
stopped for over an hour. At this particular spot the main bridge had 
been destroyed and the narrow dirt road leading down to the river- 
bed, where there was a temporary structure, was blocked by a heavy 
truck. The driver was unable to swing the machine round the narrow 
turn in the road. Faced by a steep cliff in front, he had no alternative 
but to back up the hill again. A road gang of prisoners were sent to 
his aid but the engine spluttered, the wheel slipped in the mud, and 
the only result was a good deal of cursing. 

After a wait of twenty minutes a long black car, preceded by a 
motor-cycle escort, swung up beside us, and the Italian Ambassador 
stepped out to watch the operations. Dressed in a magnificent black 
uniform with rows of medals across his chest, his appearance caused 
the Spaniards considerable excitement. The orders grew louder and 
more violent, but the wheels still whirled helplessly in the mud. 

It was considered such discourtesy, however, to keep an Italian 
Ambassador waiting, that the officer in charge finally solved the prob- 
lem by ordering the road gang to push the truck over the cliff. With 
the engine still running, the men heaved, and with a deafening roar 
the truck fell three hundred feet to the ravine below; the Ambassador 
gave the Fascist salute and climbed back into his car. 

A small Spaniard standing near me became pale with indignation. 


"A hundred thousand pesetas," he moaned. "Who's running this 
country, anyway?" That, of course, was the question. 

When we had crossed the bridge and were on the main road, 
Rosalies said once again: "I think it is better not to write about that." 

The day came to a climax when we reached Bilbao and went 
into a cafe for supper. Rosalies ran into a friend who had just heard 
an amusing story. He laughed so much he had difficulty telling it, 
but the gist was that two Englishmen had flown to Santander in a 
private plane to greet the victorious army. They had arrived too 
soon, however, and when they stepped out of the plane shouting, 
"Viva, Franco! Arriba, Espana!" the Red officers still in charge of 
the aerodrome had promptly arrested them. They forced the owner 
of the plane to fly several Government officials to the town of Gijon 
and then placed him in gaol. 

"Do you know the name of the Englishman?" I asked. 

The Spaniard shook his head, but I already knew the answer: 
Rupert Bellville. 


Chapter HI 



Salamanca, was a faded travel poster that said: "Visit Madrid." It 
was strange no one had torn it down for "Red" atrocity stories were 
on everyone's lips and hatred for the Madrilenos approached fanati- 
cism. Word spread quickly that I had "visited Madrid" and I was 
often accosted in the lobby by strangers eager for news of relatives 
believed to be prisoners on the other side. 

Each had his own version of conditions in Red Spain and I found 
it dangerous to make contradictions. One woman, the wife of an 
official in the Foreign Office, asked me how I dared walk along the 
streets of Madrid. She had heard there was so much sniping from the 
windows that bodies were piled up by the curbs and left to rot in the 
gutters. When I denied this her tone became hostile, and I later 
learned she had denounced me as suspect. Another man asked if I 
had seen the Reds feeding prisoners to the animals in the Zoo. I told 
him the Zoo had been empty for months, and his manner froze. Still 
another, Pablo Merry del Val, the head of the Foreign Press, admired 
a gold bracelet I was wearing: "I don't imagine you took that to 
Madrid with you," he said, smiling. When I replied I had bought it 
in Madrid he was greatly affronted and from then on bowed coldly 
from a distance. 

If I had been a Spaniard these remarks, innocent as they were, 
would have landed me in gaol. Objectivity was not tolerated. During 
the weeks I spent in Salamanca, the vilification of the enemy, even by 
responsible officials, was so extreme that it was almost a mental dis- 
ease. I could understand and sympathize with Spaniards who had 
become embittered by tragic experiences. Many had escaped from 



Republican territory only after weeks of terror and misery, and many 
more were in mourning. But what I couldn't understand was that 
everyone seemed to have forgotten that General Franco had launched 
the war. They argued Franco had been forced to rebel in order to 
forestall a Bolshevik uprising scheduled for a week or two later. Con- 
sidering that the Communist Party had numbered only a few thou- 
sand at the outbreak of the war, and that the arms and equipment 
on the Republican side were still pathetically inadequate, this scarcely 
seemed logical. They also claimed that if the elections of 1936 had 
not been corrupt, the Right Wing parties would have swept the 
country; but, in view of the fact that it was taking General Franco 
nearer two years than two weeks to accomplish his rebellion, it was 
difficult to believe Republican resistance was entirely forced. 

The Nationalist war propaganda was concentrated exclusively on 
the fight against Bolshevism. Just as on the Republican side the people 
were called upon to resist a foreign invasion, the Nationalists rallied 
the peasants against the domination of Moscow. I found, however, 
that Bolshevism was an elastic word, for it included democrats as 
well as Communists; in fact, everyone who did not support a totali- 
tarian regime was lumped together as Red. 

This detestation of free government gave me an understanding of 
the difficulties that the Republic had had to deal with. In many in- 
stances the claim that the Republic had failed to maintain discipline 
was true. But, on the other hand, it was equally true that ever since 
the Republic had first been established in 1931, Right Wing groups 
had plotted its downfall. Many of the terrorist acts in Spain were 
instigated by these groups and at no time did the legitimate Govern- 
ment receive their support. Proof of this lay in the fact that officials 
who had failed to resign when the Republic was established, and 
maintained friendly relations even for a limited period, were regarded 
as suspect. Count Florida, a prominent official in Salamanca, summed 
up the situation to me in a single sentence: "In Spain/' he said, "no 
gentleman would ever dream of supporting a Republic." 

Franco propaganda had drawn much attention to the strange com- 
panions who were fighting side by side under the Republican flag. 
Although the incompatibility of Republicans, Anarchists, Com- 
munists and Socialists banded together in a Popular Front was em- 


phasized repeatedly, I found in Salamanca that the discords in the 
Franco ranks were just as deep and bitter. 

From one end of Nationalist territory to the other there were two 
predominating uniforms: one was the Carlists (or Requetes) with 
their khaki shirts and bright red berets, and the other, the Fascists 
(or Falangistas) in navy blue with crimson tassels swinging from 
their caps. These two groups, although united into a single party to 
win the war and bound together by a common detestation of parlia- 
mentary government, held views stubbornly and bitterly opposed. 

The Carlist Party, organized in 1830 and supporting Don Carlos, 
Pretender to the Spanish throne, had now, with the backing of clergy 
and aristocracy, grown into a strong political force, advocating what 
in Spain was known as "Traditionalism," but what in reality was 
nothing less than a return to the feudal system. With these reaction- 
ary views they considered the Fascists a dangerous and radical or- 
ganization. This feeling was not hard to understand, for the Fascist 
programme threatened the power of bishops and grandees. It favoured 
a supreme centralized Government, stood for land reform and the 
separation of Church from State. 

I heard Carlists argue that the peasant should stay on the clod of 
land on which he was born; that his happiness did not lie in educa- 
tion but in the security that the great landowner could give him. A 
Fascist leader commenting on these remarks, shook his head emphat- 
ically. "That is the way they talk," he said. "But when the war is 
over, there won't be any great landowners." 

The Carlists were uncompromising in their attitude towards Repub- 
lican prisoners, demanding that they be placed into road-building 
gangs and forced to restore the bridges and towns which they had 
destroyed. The Fascists, on the other hand, insisted that efforts be 
made to convert the enemy to their way of thinking. I remembered 
how the Fascist food-trucks had rolled up to feed the prisoners on 
the road to Santander, and later learned that thousands of these men 
had been given uniforms and drafted into the ranks. In spite of the 
humanitarian appeal, it was part of a determined programme to ex- 
pand the Fascist power. When I discussed this subject with Count 
Florida, he replied vehemently that half the Fascists were nothing 
but Reds. In indignation, he added that in the north many of them 


were giving the Popular Front salute and talking about their brothers 
in Barcelona. 

Although Franco had made persistent efforts to bring the two 
parties together, each continued to maintain its own flag and its own 
national anthem, and at times hostilities became so bitter that street 
fighting broke out in Saragossa and San Sebastian. It was apparent 
even then, however, that the Fascists held the upper hand. Already 
they numbered about three million as compared with the Tradition- 
alists' eight hundred thousand. 

Needless to say, the internal affairs of Spain were being carefully 
manipulated by the Nazis, by tactics that now have become familiar 
the world over. Although the Italians were playing a more prominent 
part on the battlefield, there were over ten thousand Germans in 
Spain, innocuously described as "technicians." Their object, under 
the cloak of anti-Bolshevism, was to build up a Fascist party which 
would one day fit into Hitler's grandiose scheme for world conquest. 
Many of these Germans were trained as air pilots, artillery officers 
and engineers; others directed the railroads, operated the radio and 
telegraphs and undertook the organization of newly-conquered ter- 
ritory. Most important of all, however, was the German infiltration 
into almost all departments of State administration. Through their 
influence they were able to see that Fascist sympathizers secured im- 
portant bureaucratic jobs, thus establishing key-men throughout the 
fabric of the Government. 

They carried on a violent and intensive propaganda campaign 
against the democracies. In fact, this campaign was often a great deal 
more bitter against Great Britain and France than Republican Spain. 
The British plan of non-intervention had been condemned by the 
Communists in Madrid as a Fascist attempt to prevent arms from 
reaching Republican Spain: here in Salamanca it was attacked as a 
Communist plot to weaken Franco by excluding foreign aid. The 
fact that Great Britain was the only great Power actively interested 
in the humanitarian aspect of the war received no thanks. Although 
the British Navy had evacuated over a hundred thousand refugees 
from both sides in Spain, and the Embassy had worked untiringly to 
effect the exchange of prisoners, they had only succeeded in arous- 
ing the hatred of both, who considered that those not for were 


against. On the soap-boxes of Salamanca and Burgos Fascist orators 
denounced the democracies as decadent and corrupt and boasted that 
the Axis Powers would establish a new order throughout the world. 
It was made clear even then that Fascism was not a philosophy for 
internal consumption alone. I heard one orator at Salamanca proclaim 
that under Fascism Spain would rise to retrieve all her ancient glories. 
Gibraltar, North Africa, would mark a humble beginning; South 
America was to be the glittering prize. 

As for internal conditions, it was difficult to make a fair compari- 
son between the two sides. I took a good many trips throughout 
Nationalist territory: to Avila, Talavera, Toledo, and to the outskirts 
of Madrid where I stood on a hill and saw with a start how large 
and white the Telephone Building looked and what easy targets the 
streets were we had wandered about so freely. Many of the villages 
outside the military zone had undergone little change and in some it 
seemed doubtful if the people even knew that a war was going on. 
There was plenty of food, the market squares were crowded, and 
black-robed priests threading their way along narrow streets crowded 
with donkey-carts, as though unaware that their fate was being sealed 
on the battlefields. The food situation was understandable, as the 
richest agricultural districts lay within Franco's control and he had 
no cities of any great size to feed. The lack of dislocation was also 
understandable, for the people had little to fear from aerial bombard- 
ments by a Republican air force that was almost negligible. Franco's 
chief headquarters, Burgos, was never bombed during the entire war. 
Salamanca, Valladolid, Seville and other Nationalist cities only suf- 
fered a few attacks. 

In the realm of brutality there was probably little to choose be- 
tween the two sides, but the spirit of revenge in Salamanca was far 
more virulent than that in Madrid. With a system that encouraged 
people to denounce their neighbours suspicions had become so un- 
balanced that harmless remarks were often twisted out of recognition. 
Needless to say, the atmosphere was guarded: there was always the 
fear of dictaphones and eavesdroppers and conversation was gener- 
ally limited to banalities. 

The gaols were overflowing, and the executions reached staggering 
figures. As soon as the Nationalists occupied a town they set up 


military courts and the trials began. I got a small idea of the situation 
when I drove back to Santander a few weeks after the Nationalists 
had taken over and visited one of the tribunals. There were five 
judges. I had met one of them at Bilbao, an amusing young army 
captain by the name of Seraglio, who had been seconded for this 
particular duty. I went to the court-house accompanied by a press 
officer and heard the cases of four men who were tried in one group. 

Three were army officers (two lieutenants and one colonel), and 
the fourth was a civil servant, the secretary to the town treasurer. 
The trial took about fifteen minutes. The prosecution called for the 
death penalty on the grounds of treason, and the defence begged for 
leniency, arguing that the soldiers had been conscripted into the 
army and that the civil servant had committed no crime while in 
office. The court was cleared for the verdict, but when it adjourned 
for lunch I met my friend the Captain in the hallway and asked him 
what the sentences had been. He replied that they had been con- 
demned to death. I asked what the standard was for the death pen- 
alty, and he answered: "All officers, all government servants and all 
men and women who have denounced Whites." He said they had 
heard sixteen cases that morning and fourteen had been condemned 
to death. Several weeks later in Salamanca an official bulletin was 
published stating that out of four thousand prisoners tried, only 
thirty-five had been given the death penalty. I could scarcely be- 
lieve, however, that I had happened to choose the one morning that 
nearly half these sentences had been imposed. 

I have often thought of the scene as the Captain and I walked down 
the court-room steps into the open. Standing in front of the building 
was an open lorry filled with men. As we got closer I saw they were 
the prisoners who had just been tried. The sky was blue and the sun 
was streaming down, which made the death sentence seem all the 
more unreal. Some of them sat with bowed heads, but as we came 
closer they recognized the young Captain as one of the judges, and 
for one brief second I suppose they had a glimmer of hope that he 
might save them. They stared at him like bewildered animals, then 
scrambled to their feet and saluted. It was a pathetic and terrible 
sight, but the young Captain saluted back casually, took a deep breath 
of fresh air, and said, gaily: "Let's go down to the cafe and have a 


drink. Conditions have improved since you were last here." As we 
walked down the hill I could hear the truck starting up, and I won- 
dered whether it was heading for the execution ground then and 
there. It rattled past us and the Captain said, "Filthy town, this. When 
the war is over you had better come back to Spain and we will show 
you some real fun." 

Tribunals were going on all over Spain. Even in Salamanca, re- 
moved as it was from the military zone, the small gaol was crowded 
with prisoners awaiting trial. One day news spread around that hun- 
dreds of Russian prisoners had arrived. The story sounded incredible, 
but I got hold of a White Russian whom I had met in the hotel, a 
strange character named Mr. Petroff, and persuaded him to go down 
to the gaol with me. We argued with the warden, Captain Costello, 
and he finally gave us permission to go in and talk to them. The 
number of Russians totalled three; all aviators who had been shot 
down at the battle of Brunete. I only talked with two and the first 
was a man of about thirty, hollow-chested and thin, with sad, melan- 
choly eyes. He said he had come to Spain because he had been offered 
fifteen hundred roubles a month, six times his normal pay. He had 
no idea what the war was about but had always longed to travel and 
it seemed to be his only opportunity. When I asked him how much 
flying experience he had had, he replied: "Six months"; he claimed 
the battle of Brunete was the first operation he had taken part in. 
Both mentally and physically he seemed a man of inferior quality 
for an air-force pilot. It was impossible to know whether he was 
speaking the truth, but there was something genuinely touching in 
the naivete of his replies. He had never been out of Russia before 
and when I asked him what had impressed him the most, he said: 
"To see the people smiling. We had been taught that the world out- 
side Russia was sad and terrible. In France, people were laughing. 
I think we have been badly deceived." 

France seemed to have made a deep impression upon him; he told 
me that whereas in his village in Russia they threw their cigarette 
stubs on the floor, in Paris they had been given little china trays to 
put them in. I asked him whether his salary 
enough to afford him any luxuries. "Oh, 
head gloomily. "It has always been my 


but I have never been able to have one." Somehow the idea of a 
bomber pilot hankering after a bicycle seemed slightly irrational. 

The second Russian was in the hospital. Landing by parachute, he 
had broken his leg; he didn't seem to mind as he had become a focal 
point of attention. He was a different type from the first pilot: a big 
blond-haired peasant without a nerve in his body, who kept up a 
steady stream of laughter and conversation. He, too, claimed he had 
come to Spain only because of the money, but now he was homesick 
and longed to get back to Moscow. He said Russia was the finest 
place in the world; he seemed very much at home and Captain 
Costello told me he had become a show-piece. The Spanish nurses 
had never seen a Russian before and all day long an endless stream 
of them tiptoed into his room, stood at the foot of his bed, and stared 
curiously at him. Some months later I heard that the Russians had 
been released from gaol. Whether or not this was true and what 
happened to them afterwards, I never learned. 

During the next two weeks in Salamanca I talked with everyone 
I could find, piecing scraps of information together and trying to 
make a composite picture out of the whole crazy pattern. I could 
understand the mentality of the upper-class Spaniards who were 
fighting for homes, property and old-time privileges; I could also 
understand the peasants, who had joined Franco's army because their 
masters had bid them to, and even the Germans, who probably did 
not think at all beyond the fact that the Fiihrer's orders were sacred. 
But I was curious about the Italians. I wondered what they thought 
Mussolini had sent them to Spain for. I talked with several in the 
Embassy and Press Bureau but their comments were guarded and I 
longed to hear the point of view of someone in the fighting forces. 
By chance, I had an opportunity one day when I went into a cafe 
to meet a friend; while I was waiting an Italian aviator came up and 
sat down at my table. He was a young man about twenty-five, with 
a row of medals which he had won in Abyssinia. He opened a con- 
versation and when I told him I was an American, smiled warmly, 
and said: "I love American jazz." With some difficulty I got him off 
this subject and on to the war. I asked him why the Italians were 
fighting in Spain and he replied gaily: "We must destroy the 


"Is that really why you are here?" 

"Well," he smiled, "the two things coincide. You see Italy is a 
very poor country. If we can kill Reds and get raw materials at 
the same time, it is a very fine combination. This is the age of ex- 

I asked him if Italy couldn't manage any other way but war, and 
he said: "War is not so bad; sometimes it is fun to drop bombs. The 
trouble with you Americans is you're too sentimental; and you're sen- 
timental because you're too smug. You've got everything you want. 
Perhaps we Italians wouldn't go to war if there were any new lands 
to discover. Now, of course, if Christopho Colombo had hung on to 
America ..." 

Just then my friend arrived, and I never had a chance to hear 
this theme developed. 


Chapter IV 



through the rugged province of Asturias, bringing his northern cam- 
paign to a close. Although the Republican troops were doomed in 
the slow squeeze, they were putting up a fierce and stubborn re- 

I was in Santander at the time and a Spanish officer, Captain 
Aguilera, the seventeenth Count of Alba y Yeltes, offered to drive 
me to Leon where the base of the attack was taking place. 

Captain Aguilera (who spoke English fluently) was booted and 
spurred, with a blue tassel swinging from his cap; he had a pale 
yellow Mercedes car, and in the back seat were two large repeating 
rifles, and a chauffeur who drove so badly he was usually encour- 
aged to sleep. 

We swung along the coast but the going was bad; the road was 
crowded with soldiers and Italian army trucks, and all along the way 
came a steady stream of refugees. The refugees had fled before the 
advance, but, cut off on the other side, were returning now to their 

Aguilera liked to drive fast, so he cursed a good deal at the carts 
and animals. "You never see any pretty girls," he grumbled. "Any 
girl who hasn't got a face like a boot can get a ride in an Italian 

A few minutes later, however, two girls with red and blue ker- 
chiefs tied over their heads motioned frantically and we pulled over 
to the side of the road. They ran up to the car and in an excited flow 
of Spanish told us the retreating army had taken away their cows. 
Some of the animals had escaped along the way, so they'd come out 



to search for them, but they hadn't found them and now they were 
tired and wanted a ride back home. We gave them a lift a few miles 
down the road and drove on to Llames. 

Llames was a sea of uniforms. Italian soldiers crowded the pave- 
ments, some of them squatting by the roadside opening tins of meat 
with their bayonets; others eating bread and cheese and gulping down 
bottles of red wine. The main street was blocked by supply trucks 
filling up with petrol, and around a bend a crowd of children and 
housewives were gazing curiously at a large Russian tank which had 
been captured two days before. Outside the town we passed a six- 
inch gun being dragged along by a team of mules. The Captain 
shouted at one of the crew and asked if the road to Infiesto was clear. 
One of the soldiers replied: "Ich weiss nicht. Ich bin bier fremd" 
("I don't know. I am a stranger here.") Even then the word 
'stranger' had a sour ring. Aguilera said: "Nice chaps, the Germans, 
but a bit too serious; they never seem to have any women around, 
but I suppose they didn't come for that. If they kill enough Reds, 
we can forgive them anything." 

It grew colder as we drove along, for now we were in the foot- 
hills of the Picos de Europa, some of the highest mountains in 
Europe. The dark hills seemed to squeeze in on us as the road nar- 
rowed and began to twist and turn through the gorges. Soon it 
started to rain, but the Captain drove faster than ever, until it seemed 
we would surely end up by skidding over the precipice. Round a 
turn we came upon a long line of soldiers on muleback. They made 
a long, silent procession winding through the mountains; the only 
noise was the hoofbeats of their animals sloshing in the mud, and at 
the head of the procession the jingle of teams dragging light artillery 
and anti-aircraft guns. 

The front was close now. They were fighting in the mountains 
about a mile away. Every now and then there was a dull, rumbling 
noise; if we hadn't known we might have thought it thunder. Com- 
ing into a tiny village we found the main street blocked by three 
long, grey cannon, with the ends wrapped in black cloth. The royal 
colours of Spain, guarded on either side by German and Italian flags, 
had been placed above the door of a dilapidated blacksmith's shop, 


while high above, half washed away by rain, was a frayed poster 
which said: "Vote for the Popular Front." 

Several dirty children stood at the side of the road gazing on the 
scene in bewilderment, while a very old lady, her eyes bright with 
interest, peered timidly through the window of a ramshackle moun- 
tain cabin. It seemed an extraordinary accident that this tiny village, 
isolated from the world by its great mountain barrier, should have 
found itself on the route of the retreat of one army and the advance 
of a second. 

A girl in a calico dress came around the corner carrying a bucket 
of water. I asked her what she thought of it. What she thought of 
it, she repeated, a puzzled look in her eyes thought of what? "The 
armies," I said. "One army moving out, the other moving in." "Oh," 
she said, "that. Well, we haven't had much food." 

Food. That was to the point. That's what war meant. Lack of 
food and loss of cows, and houses with bomb-holes in them. 

Aguilera climbed out of the car to see what the trouble was, and 
a few minutes later came back with the news that a bridge was 
down, with little chance of being repaired before the following day. 
We would have to go back to Torrelavega and try to get through 
on another road. 

It was cold and dark now. Torrelavega, which had been captured 
only a few days before, had a curious air of stillness about it. There 
was a small hotel in the main square, but we walked in to find it 
deserted. The dining-room was bare; some of the table covers lay 
on the floor, and the only light was a dim bulb. Aguilera stamped 
and shouted, and a few minutes later a very fat Spanish woman 
came stumbling breathlessly up the stairs. When we asked if there 
was any food to be had, she threw her arms into the air and launched 
into a passionate explanation. They were cleaned out, she said; the 
army had taken everything; they had even taken her coffee-grinder. 
She could understand the food all right, but she didn't see why they'd 
had to take the coffee-grinder: it was a fine coffee-grinder that had 
come all the way from America. 

We drove on to Corrales, where we finally got some dinner. The 
hotel dining-room was crowded with German and Italian officers, 
and at first the concierge said he couldn't feed us. But Aguilera 


argued with him, and soon we had an enormous dinner of soup, 
fish, meat and vegetables. The Germans in the room were solemn 
and polite, and the Italians, loud and vociferous, frequently bursting 
into song. They were just the way Italians and Germans ought to 
be, so we left with a feeling of satisfaction. 

Our problem now was to find a place to sleep. Cutting across 
country, the roads were bad, but the Captain raced along at high 
speed, until it seemed that every spring had broken. At the first 
medium-sized town we came to he pulled up before the hotel and 
banged on the door. It was dark and still, so the sound of the engine 
and the shouts and knocks soon drew forth a rattling of windows; 
but as for a place to sleep we met with no success, for the concierge's 
voice rang out to say that the Government troops had taken all the 
mattresses. He suggested that we drive to the next village, about 
twenty miles away: but when we reached it we found that over 
eighty people had been turned away from the one and only inn; that 
it was swarming with officers who were even sleeping in armchairs 
in the lobby. 

It was nearly midnight now and the Captain was growing bad- 
tempered. The ruts in the roads were so deep he was forced to slow 
down, and at one of the temporary bridges we were held up nearly 
half an hour by an army truck stuck in the mud. The main bridge, 
which had been blown up by the retreating Asturians, was lighted 
by flares with over five hundred men working on the reconstruction. 
German engineers in khaki uniforms and black ties were directing 
the labourers, most of whom were prisoners who had been captured 
at Santander. 

"Bueno" said Aguilera, "it's good to see them building up what 
they've destroyed. The only thing the Reds like to do is destroy. 
You must emphasize that in one of your articles. The joy of de- 


"Yes," I said, "but the army was in retreat. If they blow up the 
bridges it holds up the advance, doesn't it?" 

Aguilera gave me a hostile look. "You talk like a Red." From 
then on the atmosphere was strained. Fortunately, the trip soon came 
to an end, for an hour later we succeeded in getting lodgings in a 
little village called Aguilar de Campo. 


The next morning the sun shone down on a serene countryside. 
We were out of the military zone now, and soldiers, guns, trucks 
and confusion seemed to have passed away with the blackness like 
a strange dream. Driving toward Leon, there were no flags or uni- 
forms to suggest that a war was being fought. Just donkeys plodding 
along the roads, peasants tending their crops, lazy little villages, and 
ragged children playing in the dust. 

"Blast the Reds!" said Aguilera suddenly. "Why did they have to 
put ideas into people's heads? Everyone knows that people are fools 
and much better off told what to do than trying to run themselves. 
Hell is too good for the Reds. I'd like to impale every one and see 
them wriggling on poles like butterflies . . ." The Captain paused 
to see what impression his speech had made, but I gave no reply, 
which seemed to anger him. "There's only one thing I hate worse 
than a Red," he blazed. 

"What's that?" 

"A sob-sister!" 

Franco's troops were closing in on the Republican army like a 
nut-cracker. They were close to Gijon, the last big port on the 
coast, and with its capitulation the northern campaign would be over. 
At the hotel in Leon there was a group of fifteen or twenty journal- 
ists who were making daily trips to the front. Among the American 
and British were Richard Sheepshanks of Reuter's, Reynolds Packard 
of the United Press, and, if I remember correctly, William Carney, 
of the New York Times, Harold Cardozo of the Daily Mail and 
"Kim" Philby of the London Times. 

The trips to the front were like a mad tea-party from the pages 
of a bellicose Alice in Wonderland. First there was the press chief, 
Major Lombarri (in peace-time, an artist on Vogue), who fluttered 
around like a Sunday-school teacher trying to assemble press cars, 
journalists, and lunch-boxes all at the same time. The lunch-boxes 
were prepared by the hotel and filled with potato omelettes, a few 
slices of cold meat, cheese, fruit and bottles of red wine. This gave 
the outing a picnic air and everyone set off in holiday spirits. 

I made the first trip in a car with Dick Sheepshanks. We followed 


Major Lombard's lead and drove for about an hour along winding 
mountain roads, until the noise of gun-fire grew loud and we came 
to a clearing where two batteries were firing. At one side twenty or 
thirty pack mules were tethered to ground stakes and nearby hun- 
dreds of soldiers lay stretched out on the grass taking an afternoon 
siesta. To the right there was a small slope which Major Lombarri 
decided would be a pleasant spot for lunch. He bustled about, spread- 
ing out rugs and opening lunch-boxes, and then said, graciously: 
"Now sit down and enjoy yourselves." 

The scene was incongruous. While the press officers were open- 
ing their potato omelettes and gulping down their wine, the guns 
shuddered and split the air, coughing out blue fire as the shells went 
moaning across the countryside. It took the explosives twenty-five 
seconds to reach the Republican stronghold, a mountain-top about 
two miles away; then there was a muffled crash and shrapnel rained 
down upon the hill like black soot. Each time the guns fired, the 
mules brayed hysterically, but no one seemed to mind the noise. The 
soldiers went on sleeping and the press officers went on drinking 
their wine and chaffing each other about the fun they would have 
in Paris when the war was over. 

As I sat there in the sunshine I had a feeling of revulsion; when 
the gunner pulled the lanyard I automatically counted twenty-five 
and wondered for whom the sands were running out. According 
to one of the officers there were about a thousand men on the hill. 
Their ammunition had given out several days before, and it was 
only a question of time before they surrendered if there were any 
left to surrender. 

The inequality of the two armies was striking. Beside being better 
equipped, Franco's troops were better organized and disciplined. 
Of the Republic's six hundred thousand soldiers, there were prob- 
ably less than four thousand who had ever had any previous military 
experience. The majority of the twenty thousand international vol- 
unteers were not trained soldiers but ordinary working-class men 
recruited by the Communist parties of the world. The Russians were 
estimated at about two thousand, consisting of air pilots, staff officers, 
gunners and technicians. To me, it seemed extraordinary that they 


had been able to hold out as long as they had against the Nationalists' 
trained forces. 

Aside from Franco's civilian conscription, he had eighty thousand 
Italians, which included three regular army divisions; he had an ex- 
perienced Foreign Legion, hard-fighting Moorish regiments, the 
Guardia Civile, the regular Spanish Army, and ten thousand German 
"technicians" and pilots. 

As I sat on the hill, I wondered what Spaniards thought of for- 
eigners slaughtering their countrymen. The officer in charge of the 
batteries was an Italian. He was smartly dressed in a turtle-necked 
sweater and high polished boots, and each time he gave the signal 
to fire he lifted his cane gracefully as though he were conducting a 
symphony orchestra. He came over to talk to us and commented on 
the enemy, saying: "Stubborn devils! They don't know when they 
are beaten." 

"Of course not," retorted Major Lombarri proudly. "They're 
Spaniards." Somehow it all seemed slightly confusing. 

Suddenly we saw a long line of men with picks and shovels come 
around a bend in the distance. Captain Aguilera interrupted us ex- 
citedly: "Red prisoners, captured at Santander. I hear they built 
one of the mountain roads in eight days. Not much chance for sleep, 
eh? That's the way to treat them. If we didn't need roads I would 
like to borrow a rifle and pick off a couple." 

Lunch was finally over. Major Lombarri collected the picnic- 
boxes and threw them down the far side of the slope, then said he 
would take us to where the Commandant was directing operations. 
He shepherded Captain Aguilera, Dick Sheepshanks and me into his 
car and drove us over a road that spiralled for several miles through 
the mountains. At the bends the chauffeur honked the horn loudly, 
but jammed on his brakes when he was suddenly confronted by a 
large Italian truck. Everyone got out and argued as to whether or not 
there was room to pass. The Italians said it was easy, but when they 
pulled past they hit one of our mudguards. We were on the outside 
and our rear right-hand wheel tilted over the edge. The driver accel- 
erated loudly and, fortunately, the car leapt back on the road. The 
Major was furious and shouted after the Italians: "Try killing the 
enemy for a change." 


We left the car in a clearing and went the rest of the way on foot. 
Hundreds of soldiers were sprawled on the ground on either side of 
the narrow path. Some of the men were repairing machine-guns, 
some brushing down mules, and others just sleeping. When we 
reached the top of the hill we found the Commandant having lunch 
in a small dug-out with two officers. He was a plump, middle-aged 
man who greeted us warmly and insisted that we all crowd into the 
tiny space. Although we told him we had finished lunch, he pro- 
duced a bottle of Malaga wine, some chocolate cookies and a plate 
of tinned American pineapple. He winked and said he was sympa- 
thetic to Americans because he was not one to forget that America 
had quite a slice of Spain. His name was Pablo, or Paul, he said, and 
what was mine? When he heard it was Virginia, he was delighted. 
"Paul and Virginia," he repeated. And had I read the book? 

Just then one of the soldiers came in and said a message had been 
received that a squadron of aeroplanes was on its way to machine- 
gun the enemy positions. We went outside and soon we saw six small 
specks swoop down over the hill like birds of prey. They went back- 
wards and forwards for nearly an hour, and occasionally, when the 
wind was right, we could hear the far-away rattle of bullets. 

At last we started home. As we threaded our way down the hill 
past men, mules and machine-guns, I asked Major Lombarri what 
the ordinary soldier would say if he were asked why he was fighting. 
"Oh, they know all right," he said. "We will stop and ask one." 

We questioned a boy of about nineteen who was lying in the 
grass gnawing a piece of bread and cheese. He was a peasant from 
Seville, and when the Major put my question to him, he replied: 
"We are fighting the Reds." I asked what he meant by the Reds, 
and he said: "The people who have been misled by Moscow." Why 
did he think they had been misled? And he answered: "They are 
very poor. In Spain it is easy to be misled." 

Captain Aguilera, who had been standing next to me, interrupted. 
"So you think people aren't satisfied?" 

The boy looked frightened. "I didn't say that, Senor." 

"You said they were poor. It sounds to me as though you are filled 
with Red ideas yourself. 

Dick and I walked away and Captain Aguilera and the Major came 


after us. "That's the sort of thing we must stamp out," said Aguilera. 
"Oh, well," sighed the Major, "it is all very confusing. When the 
war is over, I'm going back to Vogue" 

I decided that I had had enough of Spain. I asked Major Lom- 
barri for a car to return to Salamanca, but he said there wouldn't be 
one available for several days. In the meantime, he suggested that I 
take a trip to Oviedo, a town in Asturias, that had been captured by 
General Franco in the early days of the war. The mountains sur- 
rounding it were still held by the Republicans, and for over a year 
it had been subjected to constant artillery and aerial bombardment. 

I was anxious to compare it with Madrid, but when I heard that 
the party (which consisted of two German and Russian photog- 
raphers) was to be conducted by Captain Aguilera, I hesitated. Ever 
since my unfortunate remark about the Republicans blowing up the 
bridges not merely for the joy of destruction but to slow down the 
enemy advance, Aguilera had regarded me as Red, and our rela- 
tionship was far from friendly. Nevertheless, I finally decided it was 
foolish to let personal animosity stand in the way and agreed to go, 
determined to get on with him as best I could. Before the trip was 
over I realized I had made a mistake. 

It took about five or six hours to get to Oviedo, as most of the 
drive was through the mountains. The road leading down to the old 
town, which lay in a valley, was under continuous shell-fire; as it 
was the only road open, food-trucks and official cars were forced to 
run the gauntlet daily. The driver accelerated and we made a hectic 
dash down the hill to my way of thinking much more in danger 
of breaking an axle on the shell-holes in the road than from receiving 
a hit. From the top of the hill Oviedo had presented an ordinary 
appearance, but when we drove into it it was hard to believe anyone 
could still be living there. It looked as though it had been struck by 
a hurricane. Not a single building or house had escaped damage; 
some of them looked like stage sets with the walls pulled off; others 
like birthday cakes with holes scooped out of the centre. 

Although the normal population of thirty thousand people had 
been evacuated, there were about fifteen hundred civilians who still 


clung to their homes. Most of them lived in the basements of ruined 
buildings, scurrying in and out of their retreats as though they had 
been accustomed to it all their lives. The main cafe was open, but 
as the window-glass had long ago been shattered, the wind whistled 
through the room, and customers sat drinking their coffee with coat- 
collars wrapped tightly around their necks. 

All day long there was the dull thud of shells dropping sporad- 
ically into the town, but no one seemed to mind; bands of ragged 
children played games in the middle of the street, a bootblack stood 
on the curb shouting for customers, and at the corner an old lady 
argued with the butcher over a cut of beef. 

The hotel I slept in (a hotel in the main street, the name of which 
I have forgotten) had been hit by shells sixteen times. There were 
only three rooms left, but the proprietor was still doing business. He 
was an agreeable little man who insisted that "the lady must have 
the best room." He led me into it, apologizing for the jagged shell- 
hole over the bed. There was no electricity, so he left the candle and 
said that if the bombardment got bad in the night to come down to 
the cellar. He added that when the war was over he had plans for 
a better hotel; he hadn't the money to build it, of course, but that 
would have to take care of itself. With peace, he said, everything 
would come. 

I was learning that to the civilian population of a country war 
was seldom interpreted in terms of military strategy and high-sound- 
ing "isms." War meant soaring prices, lack of food, and houses with 
bomb-holes in them. Their opinions were influenced largely by the 
effect it had on their personal lives. Government officials answered 
you in terms of politics, soldiers in terms of strategy, and civilians 
in terms of domestic upheaval. 

We spent only one night in Oviedo. Captain Aguilera took us to 
dinner with the Colonel, and the room we dined in had a gaping 
shell-hole, covered by strips of brown paper, in the wall. The blinds 
were tightly drawn and two candles flickering on the table provided 
the only light. I don't remember much about the evening except that 
the Colonel seemed pleased to have visitors and gave us a surprisingly 
elaborate dinner. I talked to one of the officers who said the war 
would soon be over and prophesied that Franco would spend Easter 


in Barcelona. As we sat there we heard the sound of explosions 
outside; the wind moaned eerily through the gap in the wall and it 
all seemed like a strange dream. 

Aguilera and I had not had any conversation since the trip began, 
but the following morning I received a message telling me to be 
ready to leave at eight-thirty. After a breakfast of coffee and dry 
bread we got into the car and drove to the outskirts of the city. The 
chauffeur pulled up at the corner of a small shopping street, not far 
from where the communication trenches started which marked the 
beginning of the Nationalist trenches. Aguilera conferred with the 
photographers in German, then turned to me and said they wanted 
to take some pictures and would return in ten minutes. They dis- 
appeared round the corner and came back two hours later. The street 
was almost deserted save for an empty grocer's shop and a small 
patisserie which did not seem to be doing much of a business. All 
morning long there was the crash of shells falling into the town. No 
one stayed in the open more than they could help and people scurried 
along the streets, every now and then darting into doorways for 
cover. As the minutes turned into hours I suspected that Aguilera 
had left me in the car on purpose; as, I suppose, a form of reprisal. 
When he came back he didn't apologize but said: "Now we will say 
good-bye to the Colonel and return to Leon." We drew up before 
the Colonel's house, but I told Aguilera he would have to pay my 
respects for me. He received this indignantly as it was obviously to 
his advantage to present a genial and smiling party to his superior 
officer. I refused to go in with him, however, and when he came out 
his face was still red with anger. "You have insulted the Nationalist 
cause," he said. "You will hear more of this later." 

I realized that our feud had reached a climax and knew that he 
was not an enemy to take lightly. However, as I was planning to 
return to France I wasn't particularly worried until I reached Sala- 
manca and went in to see Pablo Merry del Val. When I told him I 
wanted to leave Spain and asked for the necessary traveling permits 
he replied coldly that no press cars were available and it was impos- 
sible to grant me permission to travel by train. "You will remain 
here," he said, "until you hear further from us." 

I guessed that Aguilera had already sent in a report against me. I 


knew he wouldn't hesitate to launch any accusation that suited him, 
however serious. As two American correspondents, H. R. Knicker- 
bocker and Webb Miller (not to mention several English journalists), 
had already seen the inside of a Spanish gaol, I knew my passport 
would be of little use if the authorities pointed out that I had been 
on the Republican side and chose to launch a spy charge against me. 

I realized it was dangerous to remain in Salamanca and decided to 
try and make my own way to Burgos, then on to San Sebastian. As 
it was impossible to travel in Nationalist territory without a Gov- 
ernment authorization, I was at a loss as to how to go about it. 
Luckily I ran into the Due de Montellano, a friend of Rupert Bell- 
ville, whom I had met in San Sebastian; when I told him I wanted 
to go to Burgos, he replied that his wife and sister-in-law were leav- 
ing by car in an hour and would take me with them. 

The Duchess was an amiable little woman; she told me that before 
the war her house in Madrid had been leased to the American Am- 
bassador, Claud Bowers. Although none of the diplomats were there 
it was still used as an Embassy, and she was delighted to hear that 
her paintings and furniture were safe. We were stopped several 
times along the road by sentries, but they were satisfied with the 
car permits and waved us on. We reached Burgos in the afternoon 
and I said good-bye to them in the Hotel Norte y Grande. I re- 
member the hotel well, for on the wall was a large poster advertis- 
ing a bull-fight. It pictured Domingo Ortego, the famous matador, 
killing a particularly gory bull. Beneath, was the sentence: "For the 
benefit of the Red Cross." 

I discovered that the city was overflowing and not a room to be 
had anywhere. There was no American or British Consulate and I 
had neither friends nor acquaintances to go to. I went to a cafe to 
think out a plan; in the back of my mind I remembered someone 
remarking vaguely that Count Cosme Churrucca, a Spaniard whom 
I had met in the Philippines several years before, was on the general 
staff in Burgos. I wrote him a note and sent the hotel porter over 
to the War Ministry with it. I didn't expect any results. I felt it 
would be too good a stroke of luck to find him there, and was 
racking my brain for an alternative when to my astonishment he 
came through the door wreathed in smiles. I explained I was stranded 


and he told me he was going to San Sebastian in the morning and 
would take me with him. For the night he offered me a room in his 
sister-in-law's flat. 

So far I had been incredibly lucky, but I realized even in San 
Sebastian the difficulties would be only half over. I sent Tommy 
Thompson a telegram suggesting lunch, hoping he would take the 
hint and come across the frontier to meet me. 

When I had last known Cosme Churrucca he was an amiable, care- 
free man who lived a pleasant life in Manila. Now I found he had 
been transformed into an excitable Fascist. He talked heatedly about 
the decadence of the democracies and asserted fiercely that when the 
war was over Germany, Italy and Spain would fall on France and 
divide her into three parts: the north for Germany, the Riviera for 
Italy and the Basque coast for Spain. Leaving Paris for the French, 
he added, because they ran it so well. 

On arriving at San Sebastian I went directly to the Maria Cristina 
Hotel. I had the good fortune to run into Eddie Neil of the Asso- 
ciated Press (who was killed at the front a few weeks later with 
Dick Sheepshanks when a shell hit their car), who took me to Chi- 
cote's bar for a cocktail. It was noisy and gay and seemed so far re- 
moved from the bitterness of war I was beginning to wonder whether 
perhaps I hadn't imagined the trouble in Salamanca, when a Dutch 
journalist came up to me and said: "What a surprise! I thought you 
were in gaol." He explained he had heard a rumour in Saint Jean- 
de-Luz that I had been arrested. 

This didn't indicate a very friendly atmosphere and that night 
I slept uneasily, half expecting to hear footsteps along the corridor, 
a knock on the door, and the voice of the police. The morning came 
with no such spectacular developments, and to my great relief about 
twelve-thirty I had a message that Tommy was downstairs. He, too, 
had heard from Philby of The Times the rumour of my arrest. When 
he got my telegram, he called at the office of the Military Governor 
at Irun and was told that I could leave Spain if I had a permit from 
G.H.Q. That, of course, was the hitch! He thought to ask for one 
would probably only serve to call official attention to the fact I was 
in San Sebastian without authority. Once again the frontier was 
closed, and after discussing the situation for some time, he decided 


the only solution was to take a chance and to drive out in his car in 
the hope that the sentries would let us go through without trouble. 
I shall never forget approaching the International Bridge. The 
Union Jack was fluttering bravely from the radiator cap and when 
the Spanish guards stepped up, Tommy handed them his "Salvo 
conducto." They inspected it carefully and I waited for the terrible 
moment when they would turn to me. It never came; they nodded 
with a satisfied air, handed back the paper and saluted. The barriers 
rose slowly, Tommy stepped on the gas, and we dashed across the 
bridge to freedom. I have never been back to Nationalist Spain 
since, and have often wondered whether Pablo Merry del Val was 
surprised by my strange disappearance. Whether or not I really 
escaped from the clutches of the police, I have never discovered. 
But I certainly enjoyed my cocktail at the Bar Basque. 

The orderly life of France with its peaceful villages seemed like 
a different world after the chaos of Spain. It was here that I heard 
the story of Rupert Bellville. He had flown to Santander with a 
young Spaniard by the name of Ricardo Gonzalles. When they got 
out of the plane, crying "Viva Franco!" they had promptly been 
arrested by Republican officers who were still in charge of the aero- 
drome. As the town was about to capitulate, Rupert was forced to 
fly two officials to the safety of Gijon. Once there, he was put in 
gaol. In the meantime, his friend Ricardo had been placed under 
the custody of two young army officers. He pretended to be an 
Englishman and said he couldn't understand Spanish. He then had 
the unpleasant experience of listening to them debate whether or not 
to shoot him. According to Ricardo's story they were still arguing 
when a soldier dashed up on a motorcycle and announced that 
Franco's vanguard was marching into the city. One of the officers 
turned to him, ripped the insignia off his own coat, and said dra- 
matically: "It is not you who will die to-day." Then he took out his 
revolver, went to the other side of a hill, and shot himself. 

The British Embassy at Hendaye made representations on Rupert's 
behalf and, finally, after a good deal of argument, the anarchist 


Governor of Gijon agreed to release him on the condition that a 
British warship pick him up. 

Rupert had been shaken by his experience. From one day to the 
next he hadn't known whether he was going to be shot, and several 
times, when Gijon was bombed, angry crowds had mobbed the gaol 
and shouted for the blood of the "Fascist" prisoners. When Rupert 
landed in France he was met by a barrage of reporters and the Eve- 
ning Standard paid him five hundred pounds for an exclusive story. 
He lost it the same night gambling in the casino at Biarritz. 

I heard later that the Governor of Gijon had entrusted Rupert 
with a letter, painstakingly typed in English, saying he would accept 
the assurance of the British Embassy that the prisoner he was re- 
leasing was not a spy but merely an "irresponsible." The letter went 
on to add that Rupert was being given his freedom unconditionally; 
nevertheless, he would venture to mention the names of certain 
prisoners friends of his who were in the hands of the Nationalists, 
in case it should be possible to arrange an exchange. Months later 
Tommy told me representations had been made to the Franco au- 
thorities but without success. 

Although the anarchist Governor was only a name to me, I have 
often wondered how his story ended. 

Part Three 



Chapter 1 



Piccadilly in a fog so thick the driver kept the car in low gear, every 
now and then jamming on the brakes as objects loomed up eerily a 
few inches ahead. I had been in London fogs before, but never in a 
black one. This was like a cloud of dark, suffocating smoke. It 
smothered the street lamps and even rolled into the houses, throwing 
a gloomy shroud over the Christmas-trees. It hung over the whole 
capital like a dark angel that had spread its wings with a terrible 
prophecy for the future. This was the Christmas before the German 
occupation of Austria; the last Christmas that the rights of sovereign 
States were to be respected on the European continent. 

Living in London that winter, and hearing the sound and fury 
across the Channel, was like sitting too near an orchestra and being 
deafened by the rising crescendo of the brass instruments. But apart 
from the threat of world events, I found London perilous in itself. 
The lack of central heating, the fogs, the left-hand traffic, and the 
crooked twisting streets offered hazards almost as great as the inter- 
national situation. 

Although my contract with the Hearst papers had ended, I de- 
cided to settle down in England for a few months before returning 
to New York, and took a small flat in Eaton Mews, in which a dog 
named "Pickles" and a caretaker named Mrs. Sullivan were included. 
Mrs. Sullivan came every morning to cook my breakfast, left at 
noon, and returned in the afternoon to get tea. She was an enormous 
woman, weighing over fourteen stone, and during the whole time I 
knew her, never once took off her hat. Even when she brought my 
tray in the morning, a black felt creation with a red rose was perched 



firmly on top of her head. No matter what the weather was like 
(and the sun rarely shone), she always came in with Pickles barking 
at her heels, saying: "It's a fine day, miss. Nothing to grumble about." 

Mrs. Sullivan used to do exactly as she wished, and on rainy days 
didn't appear at all. I never reprimanded her, for a few days after I 
arrived I realized she was not a woman to quarrel with. One morning 
she came in with breakfast and told me she had just strangled her 
neighbour, "Until she was black as your dress, miss." 

Startled out of my sleep, I learned the row had started over hang- 
ing out the washing. "She inferred that I wasn't respectable," said 
Mrs. Sullivan indignantly. "She even insinuated I earned my money 
off the streets." 

With Mrs. Sullivan's portentous appearance, this almost could 
have been accepted as a compliment, but she regarded it as the 
gravest insult. I asked her if she wouldn't get into trouble for prose- 
cuting the matter herself, but she replied gleefully that the unfor- 
tunate neighbour kept lodgers in the basement, which was against 
the law. "I've got the upper hand, miss. She won't dare make any 
complaints." After that, Mrs. Sullivan ran my flat as she saw fit. 

I loved London. I had a number of English friends who were very 
kind (particularly Sir Philip and Lady Chetwode whom my sister 
and I had met in India), and soon found myself on a round of 
lunches and dinners. From a journalist's point of view I had arrived 
at an opportune moment, for there was a pressing demand for articles 
on Spain; conversationally, the war was almost an obsession. It was 
like a crystal that held all the shades of the rainbow; you turned it 
to the light and chose the colours that suited you. The issues were 
argued passionately on widely different grounds: Democracy versus 
Fascism; Fascism versus Bolshevism; Bolshevism versus Religion; 
Religion versus the Republic; the Republic versus the Aristocracy; 
the Aristocracy versus Bolshevism. 

Everyone had an opinion, but save for Left and Right extremists 
(who advocated immediate intervention) it was the opinion of the 
onlooker. The mass of people supported Great Britain's policy of 
non-intervention, and one London paper (I think it was the Express) 
advocated that all Spaniards should be evacuated so that the for- 
eigners could fight it out. 


My own views on Spain had become clearly defined. Although 
my sympathies lay with the struggle of the Republic against the mili- 
tary and landlord class, rebelling to recapture their old-time priv- 
ileges, I couldn't believe that democracy would emerge from the war, 
no matter who won. In Republican Spain I felt the Communist Party 
had grown too strong ever to relinquish its hold. Vincent Sheean, in 
his book The Eleventh Hour, wrote that it had become "the most 
powerful single party in Spain/' but somehow reached the surprising 
conclusion that the Communists were not fighting for Communism 
but to re-establish a bourgeois republic. I was unable to accept this 
reasoning, but even so felt that from an international point of view the 
Communist menace was far less dangerous than the Fascist menace. 

I wrote this in an article which appeared in the London Sunday 
Times, emphasizing that the Germans and Italians were far less con- 
cerned about fighting "Bolshevism" than in preparing the ground, 
politically and strategically, and training their armies for the day 
when they could expand at the expense of Great Britain and France. 

A few days before the article was published, I gave a copy to 
Tommy Thompson (then on short leave from Spain), who sent it 
to the head of the News Department, Rex Leeper; and the following 
morning I had a telephone message asking me to come to see Sir 
Robert Vansittart, who was then the permanent Under-Secretary 
of State for Foreign Aifairs. 

I had often heard of Sir Robert, but visualized him as a mysterious 
figure whom no one ever met. His name was not well known to the 
general public, but he wielded more influence than most members 
of the cabinet. As the head of the Foreign Office, reports flowed 
into his desk from all over the world, and it was his job to piece them 
together and advise the Foreign Secretary on the proper course to 
adopt. He rarely appeared in the limelight, but his views were specu- 
lated on as instrumental in shaping British policy. 

In spite of the aura of mystery that shrouded Vansittart, he was 
one of the most simple men I have ever met. Perhaps I expected a 
slightly sinister character; at any rate, I was completely taken aback 
by a tall, handsome man in his early fifties with a carnation in his 
buttonhole, a pair of keen brown eyes and a charming smile. When 
his secretary led me into his office he looked almost as surprised as 


I, for he told me later that from my article he had expected a middle- 
aged woman with flat-heeled shoes and a man's tie. 

We talked about German and Italian intervention in Spain and it 
wasn't difficult to gauge what Vansittart thought of the policy of 
appeasement. "They're trying to lead the world back to the Dark 
Ages. And if we don't wake up in time, here in England, they may 
succeed in doing it." Sir Robert had had over thirty-five years' ex- 
perience in diplomacy and it wasn't difficult for him to recognize 
Nazi Germany as a grave menace to the British Empire. But apart 
from this, he abhorred the philosophy of National Socialism and ex- 
pressed his views vigorously which reminded me of the comment 
Webb Miller, the United Press correspondent, had made after talk- 
ing with Vansittart and Major Attlee on the same afternoon. Webb 
had left with a puzzled air. "They seem to have switched their roles," 
he said, "for Attlee was as reserved as a diplomat while Sir Robert 
spoke like the Leader of the Opposition." 

Vansittart was already courageously bucking the tide of appease- 
ment, but the current was growing too strong. He watched with 
anxiety the increasing lawlessness on the continent and I remember 
an ironical comment he made on the contempt with which treaties 
and promises were already regarded. Somehow or other, we got on 
to the subject of the archives in the Foreign Office and he told me 
that not only were official documents treated with respect, but even 
scrap paper made a dignified exit. Every evening a man came along 
the corridors wheeling a bin marked "Confidential Waste." The scraps 
were then taken under escort to an incinerator and burned. One day, 
Sir Robert said, something went wrong with the incinerator and the 
papers blew up the chimney and scattered all over London. For 
weeks, aged gardeners and conscientious taxi-drivers were picking 
up formidable reports marked, "This document is the property of 
His Britannic Majesty's Government" and returning them to the 
sanctity of the Foreign Office. "Just as treaties are now blowing 
over Europe," he added ironically. "Except that nobody bothers to 
pick them up." 

This was the beginning of a friendship with Sir Robert and his 
wife Sarita; during the next three years I lunched and dined with 
them often. If Vansittart's warnings and prophecies should ever be 


published, they will chronicle the events of the past few years with 
astonishing accuracy. Unfortunately, his opposition to the increas- 
ing aggression of Germany made him one of the first sacrifices on 
the altar of appeasement, and shortly after that black, gloomy Christ- 
mas of 1937, he was removed as the chief of the Foreign Office and 
replaced by Sir Alexander Cadogan. Although Sir Robert was given 
the post of "Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Government" and re- 
mained in contact with the affairs of the office, Mr. Chamberlain and 
Lord Halifax rarely sought his advice. Winston Churchill, however, 
was a close personal friend. 

Churchill was appeasement's most vigorous opponent. The official 
opposition in the House of Commons, the Labour Party (which at 
the General Election in 1935 had used the slogan "Armaments Mean 
War Vote Labour") discredited itself by urging firm action against 
dictators, yet refusing to vote for more arms. The only effective 
opposition, therefore, was Mr. Churchill, who believed not only in 
strong words but in the capacity to appear formidable. That autumn 
the names Chamberlain and Churchill became identified with two 
conflicting schools of thought on foreign policy. 

Now, British foreign policy has often been presented in a Machia- 
vellian light, but on looking through the pages of history, few policies 
have been so consistent. It has always been shaped for one purpose 
and one purpose only: to maintain and ensure the safety of the 
Empire. Both Churchill and Chamberlain held this interest in com- 
mon, but their conceptions of how best it could be guarded bore 
little resemblance. Whereas Mr. Chamberlain believed security lay in 
a compromise between the four great Powers of Europe (England, 
France, Germany and Italy), Mr. Churchill turned to the lessons 
of the past. Through centuries, England's security had been based 
on maintaining a balance of power; she had always been the friend 
of the second strongest Power on the continent. 

This formula was expressed in 1907 by Sir Eyre Crowe, a mem- 
ber of the Foreign Office, who wrote: 

The only check on the use of political predominance has always con* 
sisted in the opposition of an equally formidable rival or a combination 


of several countries forming a league of defence. The equilibrium estab- 
lished by such a group of forces is technically known as the Balance of 
Power, and it has been a historical truism to identify England's secular 
policy with the maintenance of this balance by throwing her weight now 
on this scale, now on that, but ever on the side opposed to political dic- 
tatorship of the strongest single state or group of states at a given time. 
If this view of British policy is correct, the opposition to which Eng- 
land must inevitably be driven by any country aspiring to such dictator- 
ship assumes almost the form of a law of Nature . . . 

In all the wars of history England had followed this policy. When 
Napoleon threatened Europe she lined up with Prussia, and when 
Prussia threatened Europe she lined up with France. Now once 
again Germany threatened to establish a hegemony, and Churchill 
knew that England must inevitably oppose her. 

Unfortunately, Chamberlain was in power and Churchill was not. 
Although both men claimed the courses they advocated were the 
only courses which, in the final analysis, would prevent war, Mr. 
Chamberlain received the backing of the majority in the House of 
Commons who had not yet grasped the fact that the ears of the 
dictators were immune to the murmur of the conference tables, and 
the only noise that could penetrate was the roll of guns and the roar 
of planes. It is true both men favoured rearmament, but whereas 
Churchill advocated it, wholeheartedly, to make his policy succeed, 
Chamberlain advocated it, half-heartedly, in case his policy jailed. 
That was the difference; and, as John Kennedy wrote in Why Eng- 
land Slept: "A boxer cannot work himself into proper psychological 
and physical condition for a fight that he seriously believes will 
never come off. It was the same with England." 

Churchill's voice rang through the House of Commons with little 
effect and Chamberlain quietly set out to appease. First, Lord Hali- 
fax went to Berlin on the pretext of viewing a hunting exhibition 
and opened conversations with Hitler at Berchtesgaden; then a month 
or two later Lady Chamberlain (widow of Sir Austen) went to Rome 
to feel Mussolini's pulse and to report on the likelihood of an Anglo- 
Italian Agreement. Meanwhile, everyone in London society discussed 


the moves with passionate interest. Dinner-tables and drawing-rooms 
became far more controversial than Parliament, for in private people 
could be as rude as they liked. 

What surprised me most about these gatherings was that everyone 
seemed to have known everyone else since childhood. When they 
argued it was like a huge family wrangling among itself, each de- 
lighted to score at the other's expense, yet underneath bound by a 
strong bond of loyalty. Opponents who crossed sharp swords polit- 
ically played golf together over the week-ends; Chamberlainites and 
Churchillites made bridge foursomes, and the pro-Hitler Mitford 
family were cousins and friends of the pro-Churchill Churchill 
family. All this was peculiar to the English parliamentary system 
which, as John Gunther says, is played in the grand manner. "After 
an election the opposing candidates shake hands exactly as if it had 
been a game of tennis. When Baldwin became Prime Minister for 
the first time, one of the first things he did was to call on Lord 
Oxford, his most eminent adversary, to ask advice." 

It all seemed like an exciting game (dangerously removed from 
the grim reality of the continent) and even the women forsook 
social gossip for political speculations. In the morning there were 
long telephone conversations. "But, darling, Mussolini carit like 
Hitler. It's simply not on." When the rift between Eden's Foreign 
Office policy and Chamberlain's appeasement policy had reached 
the breaking-point, Lady Abingdon rang me up, remonstrating in- 
dignantly: "I've just talked to Bill Astor, and do you know what 
he says? He says, if our foreign policy ever gets into the hands of 
the Foreign Office, we're sunk. Now, fancy that!" 

The only rest from political conversation was Mrs. Sullivan, who 
was far more interested in her neighbours' opinions than those of 
Herr Hitler. One morning I asked her what she thought of the 
Prime Minister, and, to my surprise, she replied: "Now, what's 'is 
name, miss? Sir Samuel 'Oare, is it?" 

In the end she disappointed me, for one day she came in with 
news that had a slight political tinge, declaring that Lord Halifax 
(who lived in Eaton Square) had pensioned off one of his house- 
maids because she drank too much. According to Mrs. Sullivan, the 
woman refused to leave: "She just sits up in the attic all day drink- 


ing gin and moaning. Sounds a bit queer in the head, doesn't she?" 
What worried Mrs. Sullivan the most was the fact that the maid 
owed her five shillings. A few days later she succeeded in collecting 
it and then her interest waned. I never heard the end of the drama, 
but I could never see Lord Halifax's serene countenance without 
wondering whether she was still there, moaning in the attic. 

When the study of the pre-war House of Commons is written, 
the name of Captain David Margesson, former Chief Whip of the 
Conservative Party, will assume a prominent position. It was his job 
to keep the House in line with the Prime Minister's policy, and he 
did it so thoroughly that he won its members an unenviable place 
in the annals of history. Suave and good-looking, Captain Margesson 
was bitterly attacked by the Opposition and referred to by the Press 
as the "Himmler" of England. The first time I met him he protested 
to me saying: "Where does the Press get all these idiotic ideas? I'm 
only a humble Whip. I have no authority. I only do as I'm told." His 
modesty was unwarranted, for Margesson's power lay not only in 
the fact that he controlled the patronage lists (by which the faithful 
were rewarded with knighthoods and peerages) but chiefly because 
Chamberlain was known to accept his advice on political appoint- 
ments. Recently, when asked what he regretted most in his career, 
he replied: "Not pressing for Churchill's inclusion in the Cabinet 
when Lord Swinton resigned." 

However, the truth of the matter was that Margesson's authority 
lay not so much in his own activity as in the inertia of the House of 
Commons. At any time, Tory M.P.s could have insisted upon more 
vigorous rearmament; at any time the public could have made itself 
felt. But the fact was that the general mass of people in England 
(like the mass of people in America to-day) refused to be aroused 
by words. War was still an unreal bogey to them, and in spite of the 
persistent warnings of Mr. Churchill it took events, and events alone, 
finally to awaken them. 

There were always heated assertions that the general lethargy of 
this period was due to a self-imposed censorship of the Press. It is 
true that each newspaper interpreted the news, either playing it 


down or building it up according to the views of the publisher, but 
the "Press Lords" represented a wide variety of opinion. The scale 
ranged from the Conservative Times to the Communist Daily 
Worker; of the two 'popular' dailies the Mail prophesied horrible 
havoc by the German Air Force, while the Express cheerfully as- 
serted that sunny days lay ahead. Every morning the Express ran a 
streamer across the front page, saying: "There will be no war." 
When I asked Lord Beaverbrook why he took such a firm stand on 
so shaky a limb, he replied: "Other people can be wrong a dozen 
times. But I can be wrong only once." 

Of all the "Press Lords," Beaverbrook (the leading advocate of 
"Splendid Isolation") had the most striking personality. He was a 
small, gnome-like man who lived in a large and solemn house near 
St. James's Palace. Born in Canada, a poor boy, he was reputed to 
have made over a million dollars before he was thirty. He had come 
to England shortly before the war and in 1918 bought the Daily 
Express and raised the circulation from 350,000 to two and a half 
million the largest daily circulation in the world. His brilliant, 
hard-headed business sense was combined with a strange, almost femi- 
nine, curiosity in human beings. When I first arrived in England 
I worked on his Evening Standard for a few weeks and several times 
the telephone rang for me in the afternoon with Beaverbrook's voice 
at the other end: "Wai! What are you doing now?" Then he would 
suggest that I come over to Stornaway House for a cup of tea. I 
always arrived to find him surrounded by papers, dictaphones and 
secretaries. Tea was usually interrupted half a dozen times by mes- 
sages and telephone calls, but he seemed to enjoy the general state of 
confusion, which he punctuated by a series of surprising questions 
flung across the room at me: "What people dorft you like in Eng- 
land? Why did you come here, anyway? Who are you in love with?" 

Beaverbrook enjoyed being provocative. Complacency was as 
tempting to him as a balloon to a small boy with a pin. He liked to 
draw out antagonisms among his guests, until they all fell wrangling 
among each other, then sit back and watch. But he was provocative 
not only at other people's expense. You often picked up one of his 
newspapers and read an audacious paragraph about himself; it was 
always under the signature of one of his feature writers but reputedly 


dictated by "the Beaver'* for the pleasure he got from the astonish- 
ment it caused. To give you a small idea: one day I picked up the 
Sunday Express, to ready under Peter Howard's signature the fol- 
lowing paragraph: 

Strange, is it not, that so few newspaper peers have lifted up their 
voices in the House of Lords? So far as I can discover, my Lords Cam- 
rose, Kemsley, Iliffe, and Southwood have yet to make their maiden 
speeches in the Upper Chamber. Lord Rothermere has spoken there, 
Lord Beaverbrook also is maiden no more, so far as the House of Lords 
is concerned. He is the only newspaper peer who has engaged in pro- 
longed political controversy on the debating floor of the House of Lords. 
Lord Beaverbrook is always complaining about others that they want 
their palm without the dust. This is exactly his own condition. He wants 
power without working for it. He imagines himself to be ill. He walks out 
of the arena and takes his place in the grandstand. From there he wishes 
to continue to take a part in the game. Lord Baldwin once said of him 
that he desired to exercise power without responsibility, the prerogative 
of the harlot throughout the ages . . . 

One of my colleagues on The Evening Standard was Randolph 
Churchill, the son of Winston. I had known Randolph in New York; 
he was a fiery young man of twenty-seven who had wanted to fight 
the Germans ever since their occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, 
and who bitterly attacked the policy of appeasement at any oppor- 
tunity whether given or not given. I greatly admired the courage with 
which he launched his views; nevertheless, going out with him was 
like going out with a time bomb. Wherever he went an explosion 
seemed to follow. With a natural and brilliant gift of oratory, and a 
disregard for the opinions of his elders, he often held dinner parties 
pinned in a helpless and angry silence. I never knew a young man who 
had the ability to antagonize more easily. When I once told him he 
ought to be less tactless, he replied: "Nonsense! My father used to be 
even ruder than I am. These pusillanimous Chamberlainites they 
need someone to give it to them!" 

Randolph was charming with people whose views he considered 
'sound.' One of these was Sir Robert Vansittart and occasionally we 


lunched there together. Another was Lloyd George, and one day 
Randolph drove me down to his house in the country. My article 
on Spain, published in the Sunday Times, had been quoted by Lloyd 
George in the House of Commons; it was unsigned and he had re- 
ferred to the writer in the masculine gender. Randolph didn't tell 
him anything about me, merely that he was bringing the 'author' 
to lunch, and when I stepped out of the car the old man regarded me 
with surprise that almost bordered on resentment. I suppose it was 
a nasty shock to find that the eminent authority he had quoted was 
just a green young woman. 

At any rate, lunch was delicious, provided entirely from his own 
farm. Afterwards he took us around showing us his chickens, pigs, 
and cows, and as he sloshed across the fields he looked almost like an 
ancient prophet with his green cloak and his long white hair blowing 
in the wind, his blue eyes sparkling, and his cheeks pink from the 

At tea he argued with Randolph on the international situation; he 
picked up a stick and pointed to a huge map on the wall, declaring 
that England had never before been in such a desperate strategic posi- 
tion as she was at the present time. He was in favour of immediate 
help to the Spanish Republic and when Randolph asked him why he 
had become such an active partisan he replied with a twinkle: "I 
always line up on the side against the priests." 

By the time we left, he seemed to have forgiven me for not being 
a general, and presented me with a jar of honey and a dozen apples 
from the farm. Mrs. Sullivan was impressed. Not at first, but after 
her husband had explained to her who Lloyd George was. When she 
appeared the next morning she said brightly, "My old man says Mr. 
Lloyd George 'as got more fire in 'im than all the others put together. 
They ought to stop 'im growing apples and get 'im back in the 
Government. But I say it would be an awful pity. I don't know when 
I've seen such fine big apples." I told her to help herself and she went 
off humming a tune. 

Randolph had begun compiling a collection of the speeches his 
father had made in the House of Commons which were later pub- 
lished under the title While England Slept. His flat was cluttered 
with Hansards, and he worked feverishly, prefacing each speech 


with appropriate dates, and quotations giving the background. Need- 
less to say, he had an enormous admiration for his father and one 
Sunday drove me down to the Churchills' country house, Chartwell, 
where I met his family for the first time. 

We arrived to find Mary Churchill, his fourteen-year-old sister, 
in the stable inspecting a newly-born lamb, Mrs. Churchill in the 
garden talking to her neighbour, Miss Henrietta Seymour; and Mr. 
Churchill down by the pond, in a torn coat and a battered hat, prod- 
ding the water with a stick, looking for his pet goldfish which seemed 
to have disappeared. 

The most endearing thing about the Churchill offspring was the 
deep affection they showered on Winston. It was understandable for 
everything about him had a human touch that drew one to him 
instantly. When we walked back to the house he said to Randolph, 
"Oh, I forgot my galoshes. Now, don't tell Clemmie or she'll scold 

Clemmie was Mrs. Churchill. She was a tall, handsome woman, 
obviously adored by her husband; you caught him looking at her to 
see whether his jokes had gone down well. During lunch there was 
a general discussion of the topics of the day and Mr. Churchill spoke 
critically and sadly of the Government's inability to see the rising 
storm on the continent. "They can't seem to understand that we live 
in a very wicked world," he said. "English people want to be left 
alone, and I daresay a great many other people want to be left alone, 
too. But the world is like a tired old horse plodding down a long 
road. Every time it strays off and tries to graze peacefully in some 
nice green pasture, along comes a new master to flog it a bit further 
down the road. No matter how much people want to be left alone 
they can't escape." 

After lunch we walked down to the cottage on the estate where 
Mr. Churchill kept his paintings. (The cottage, incidentally, had been 
built by himself. He had worked on the job with a professional brick- 
layer until he had learnt to lay a brick a minute, then, in 1928, had 
created a sensation by joining the Amalgamated Union of Building 
Trade Workers, as an "adult apprentice," paying an entrance fee of 
five shillings. This created considerable controversy in the Trade 
Union world which considered it "humiliating and degrading buf- 


foonery"; nevertheless, bricklayer he was and bricklayer he re- 

Painting was Churchill's favourite hobby and there were thirty or 
forty pictures in the cottage mostly landscapes done in oils. He said 
he regretted the fact that lately he had been too busy to go on with 
it. "With all the fascinating things there are to do in the world," 
he reflected, "it's odd to think that some people actually while away 
the time by playing Patience. Just fancy." 

Since that day Hitler has learned that "Patience" is not one of 
Mr. Churchill's vices. 


Chapter 11 



demolished by a bomb) to find the lobby thronged with soldiers and 
girls in cheap dresses who had come for the Sunday afternoon Tea 
Dance. I was pushing my way through the crowd looking for a 
telephone box when I heard a voice say, "Hello," and looked around 
to find a young Spaniard, Ignacio Lombarte, whom I hadn't seen 
since I was in Madrid nearly a year before. 

He looked older than when I had last seen him; he had been 
wounded at Teruel and come to Barcelona on a few days' leave. "It's 
good to see you again," he said. "Are you enjoying yourself?" 

Now Enjoyment' was the last word I would have associated with 
Spain that February 1938. Franco's troops were driving towards the 
sea and the morale of Catalonia was almost at a breaking-point. Dur- 
ing the last few days I had found little besides starvation, terror and 
misery. At the Hotel Majestic the waiters scraped the food plates for 
scraps to take home to their families, and in the country people bar- 
tered soap, coal, and clothes with the peasants for enough to keep 
them alive. I talked with a girl who was elated to have exchanged 
a bag of coal for two pounds of chocolate. 

But even worse than hunger were the air raids. On a three-day 
drive along the coast to Valencia and back I had passed hundreds of 
refugees fleeing from their homes to more secure spots in the interior. 
Scarcely a town had escaped. All along the way there were ghastly 
ruins; and even in the desolation there was no relief, for every few 
hours the countryside resounded with the wail of sirens as more 
bombers appeared from their bases in Majorca. The inability to hit 



back and the rumour that Italy and Germany were increasing their 
supply of planes to Spain had filled many people with despair. 

I heard my friend, Ignacio Lombarte, repeating his question: "Are 
you enjoying yourself?" and I nodded, not knowing what to say, 
and told him I had come for only a week and was returning to Lon- 
don in the morning. "You have other things to do?" he asked. Then, 
without waiting for a reply, "I understand. Soon new things will be 
happening. We are only the first." 

I thought of his words, "We are only the first," when I reached 
London, for the stage hands were already setting the scene for the 
second phase of the European drama. You could read the cues in 
your morning papers for in that month of February Hitler took 
control of the German Army, Herr von Ribbentrop became the 
Foreign Minister, Anthony Eden resigned from the British Cabinet, 
and Mussolini introduced the goose-step (passo Romano) into the 
Italian Army. Finally, the set was ready and Herr von Schussnigg, the 
Austrian Chancellor, was summoned to Berchtesgaden. 

The world waited fearfully and a month later the curtain rose. 
Hitler's planes circled over Vienna and his troops poured across the 
Austrian frontier. In London, the tension rose to a higher pitch than 
at any time since the Great War. Silent crowds gathered in Downing 
Street to watch the Cabinet Ministers leaving their hastily summoned 
meeting, while newsboys cried out to a cold grey world: "Germany 
on the march again." 

The fear of immediate war hung in the air like poison gas. Worried 
speculations ran the gamut from saloons to fashionable London draw- 
ing-rooms. There was a general rush of volunteers to ambulance 
services and air-raid precaution organizations, and hundreds of young 
business men signed up with the Territorial Army. Everywhere there 
was a cry for more arms. 

The tension, however, was like a high-voltage wire. Mr. Chamber- 
lain succeeded in turning down the current by declaring with re- 
newed (and inexplicable) confidence that there was little likelihood 
of a conflict in which England would be involved; The Times ran 
leading articles emphasizing the enthusiasm with which thousands of 
Viennese welcomed the Nazi regime; and the Archbishop of Canter- 


bury rose in the House of Lords to say that Hitler should be thanked 
for preserving Austria from a civil war. 

"Why all the gloom?" cried Lord Beaverbrook, and the catchword 
stuck. "Why all the gloom?" echoed the public, and settled back in 
its comfortable illusion of peace. 

This complacency was difficult to understand. Great Britain's 
prestige was lower than at any time since Napoleon. Her ships were 
bombed and her ultimata ignored; her Government was excoriated 
and her people pronounced effete. The aggressor nations had pulled 
off one successful coup after another. During the past three years, 
Mussolini had conquered Abyssinia, Hitler had occupied the Rhine- 
land and absorbed Austria, Japan had seized the Yangtse threatening 
vast sums of British capital, and in Spain General Franco, with the 
aid of the dictator powers, was on the verge of establishing a regime 
which showed every indication of affiliating itself with the Rome- 
Berlin Axis. Although only nineteen years before the peace of Ver- 
sailles was signed, and, under the Covenant of the League of Nations, 
the world seemed to be approaching a genuine international under- 
standing, Europe was now split into irreconcilable camps. The air 
was charged with the drone of aircraft while a militant spirit more 
fierce and ruthless than ever before was trampling half the continent. 

To understand British policy at that time, however, it must be 
emphasized that the Government did not accept the situation at its 
face value. Chamberlain was banking on the following beliefs: first, 
that although the procedure might be a lengthy one it would be pos- 
sible to detach Italy from the Rome-Berlin Axis; second, that al- 
though General Franco was sympathetic to Italy and Germany, he 
would eventually be forced to London for a loan; and, third, that 
although Germany might wish to dominate Central Europe, she had 
no fundamental quarrel with England. 

Working on these hypotheses, Chamberlain had not been idle. 
Although Great Britain still recognized the Government of Republi- 
can Spain, she had sent permanent representatives to Burgos. Al- 
though she had demanded that Italy withdraw her troops from 
Nationalist territory, she had overlooked Mussolini's refusal to do 
so, and hurriedly signed an Anglo-Italian agreement declaring her 
willingness to recognize Abyssinia. Although Germany had forcibly 


occupied Austria and shocked the world by her brutal treatment of 
the Jewish minority, England had warned the Czecho-Slovakians 
that they must be careful to treat the German minority with every 

Mr. Churchill had little faith in the success of these moves and 
pled desperately for more vigorous efforts at rearmament, pointing 
out that the situation had no parallel in history. The Empire had 
been menaced four times in four successive centuries; by Philip II of 
Spain, by Louis XIV, by Napoleon and by the German Kaiser. On 
all these occasions England had emerged victorious through the 
predominance of her sea power. This predominance enabled her to 
protect her island from invasion and at the same time send money 
and arms abroad and to form allied leagues against her enemies. Even 
when Napoleon dominated half of Europe and declared sanctions 
against England, boycotting her goods from all the ports beneath his 
control, Britain's command of the seas enabled her to develop an 
enormous smuggling trade, and to form four successive coalitions 
against him until he met defeat first at Trafalgar, finally at Waterloo. 
In the World War, once again it was British sea power, with its 
steady, persistent blockade, that finally crushed the German people. 

But now England could no longer depend exclusively on her naval 
strength. When Bleriot flew the Channel in 1909, the end of her 
impregnability was in sight, for the sea that had hitherto served as 
her guardian showed signs of transforming her into one of the most 
vulnerable nations of Europe. Her harbours and factories were open 
targets, and on these harbours and factories her existence depended. 
Although she possessed the most powerful navy in the world, her 
General Staff was faced with the prospect of fighting on three fronts 
at once; in the Far East, in the Mediterranean, and in the North Sea. 
Even if the danger in the Orient were eliminated, her strategic posi- 
tion remained far graver than in 1914, for at that time the Mediter- 
ranean was blocked off, Spain was neutral, and Portugal and Italy 
her allies. 

To fight, Britain needed more ships, arms and aircraft than ever 
before. The House of Commons undoubtedly agreed on this point, 
but who said Britain would have to fight? On every side one heard 
the phrase: "Hitler doesn't want a war." It was uttered with the 


same complacent conviction that one used to say: "The French have 
the finest army in the world." Some people claimed that Hitler's 
interest lay in the East Russia was his real goal; others that he was 
only blowing the trumpet to recover his African colonies. Whatever 
the argument, a second war with Great Britain was unthinkable, and 
outsiders began to wonder if England would pass quietly away in a 
deep slumber. 

I was in the House of Commons on March 24th, two weeks after 
the annexation of Austria, when Churchill made a dramatic and 
moving appeal. As I looked down from the Gallery, on the sea of 
black coats and white faces, he seemed only one man among many; 
but when he spoke his words rang through the House with terrible 
finality. He stood addressing the Speaker, his shoulders slightly bent, 
his head thrust forward, and a hand in his waistcoat pocket. 

For five years I have talked to the House on these matters not with 
very great success. I have watched this famous island descending incon- 
tinently, recklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine 
broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little 
farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these 
break beneath your feet. Look back over the last five years. It is 
true that great mistakes were made in the years immediately after 
the War. But at Locarno we laid the foundation from which a great 
forward movement could have been made. Look back upon the last 
five years since, that is to say, Germany began to rearm in earnest 
and openly to seek revenge. If we study the history of Rome and Carthage, 
we can understand what happened and why. It is not difficult to form an 
intelligent view about the three Punic Wars; but if mortal catastrophe 
should overtake the British Nation and the British Empire, historians 
a thousand years hence will still be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. 
They will never understand how it was that a victorious nation, with 
everything in hand, suffered themselves to be brought low, and to cast 
away all that they had gained by measureless sacrifice and absolute 
victory gone with the wind! 

Now the victors are the vanquished, and those who threw down their 
arms in the field and sued for an armistice are striding on to world mas- 
tery. That is the position that is the terrible transformation that has 
taken place bit by bit. I rejoice to hear from the Prime Minister that a 
further supreme effort is to be made to place us in a position of security. 


Now is the time at last to rouse the nation. Perhaps it is the last time it 
can be roused with a chance of preventing war, or with a chance of com- 
ing through to victory should our efforts to prevent war fail. We should 
lay aside every hindrance and endeavour by uniting the whole force and 
spirit of our people to raise again a great British nation standing up before 
all the world; for such a nation, rising in its ancient vigour, can even at 
this hour save civilization. 

When Mr. Churchill sat down there was a deep silence for a 
moment: then the show was over. The House broke into a hubbub 
of noise; members rattled their papers and shuffled their way to the 
lobby. Harold Balfour (now Under-secretary of State for Air) came 
up to the Ladies' Gallery to take me to tea. I was talking with Sheila 
Birkenhead and when we asked him what he thought of the speech, 
he replied, lightly: "Oh, the usual Churchillian filibuster; he likes to 
rattle the sabre and he does it jolly well, but you always have to take 
it with a grain of salt." 

A grain of salt, while the German armies were beginning their 
march across Europe . . . 


Chapter III 



before the Munich Agreement, I found myself hurtling through the 
Czechoslovakian countryside on the Istanbul-Berlin Express. I was 
only a 'local' passenger, for I had got on at Prague and was travelling 
no further than Aussig, a town ninety miles away, where the Sudeten 
Germans were holding their yearly election campaign. Hitler's an- 
nexation of Austria (two months before) had dealt Czechoslovakia a 
heavy blow, sending a wave of Nationalism sweeping through the 
German districts, and now the Nazi Party showed every sign of 
"cleaning up" at the polls. 

I had come to Prague to write an article for the London Sunday 
Times, and when Ralph Izzard of the Daily Mail suggested going to 
one of the Henlein rallies, I jumped at the chance. We were accom- 
panied by Herr Ulrich, the Press chief of the Sudeten Nazi Party, 
who seemed to regard the excursion as a holiday, for as soon as we 
settled ourselves on the train, he ordered half a dozen bottles of beer 
and said, "Now we must enjoy ourselves." 

Herr Ulrich was a placid, mild-mannered little man who, until 
recently, had been the manager of a small firm near Reichenberg; 
now he had given up his job to devote all his time to Party affairs. 
Without knowing his background you could picture his life: punc- 
tual at the office, kind to animals, paying his bills on time, and living 
in a respectable neighbourhood with an equally respectable wife. 
Everything about him was quietly suburban. 

At first his conversation was limited to pleasantries, but the beer 



loosened his tongue and before long he was discussing the political 
events of the day. His voice grew shrill when he got on the subject 
of Sudeten German autonomy and his quiet manner changed. Bang- 
ing his fist threateningly on the table, he rolled off a series of well- 
worn phrases such as "the destiny of the German race," "the in- 
dignity of Slav rule," and the "new order of Europe." It was an 
extraordinary performance, like an actor rehearsing a part; for he 
was a good-natured little man and at heart bore no personal grievance 
against the Czechs in fact, he had admitted to Ralph, in an off 
moment, that they were "pretty good fellows." It was as though he 
were cast in a role and had come to believe himself the character 
he was portraying. He was no longer Herr Ulrich, business manager, 
but Herr Ulrich, leader of destiny. Hitler had made him feel himself 
a link with history. 

He went on talking about the Czechs and claimed they were 
already "trembling in their boots." He told us of an incident on the 
frontier near Warnsdorf where Czech soldiers had constructed 
granite barriers with an opening just wide enough for a single car to 
pass. The Germans, who were holding manoeuvres on the other side, 
built larger barriers, then, to illustrate their contempt, drove two 
tanks down the road and smashed them to pieces. "Just to show the 
Czechs," explained Ulrich, "what to expect if they argue with 

The more beer Ulrich drank, the more he talked. Suddenly he 
said, "I will tell you a secret. Henlein is with Hitler this very moment 
at Berchtesgaden. The German Army may cross the frontier at any 

Ralph and I received the news with astonishment. When Hitler 
marched into Austria it was feared that his eyes were on Prague; but 
people with these misgivings had been branded by the appeasers as 
'jitterbugs' and once again the world had settled down to com- 
placency. Now, on a train hurtling through the Bohemian country- 
side, we were calmly being told that the German Army might cross 
the frontier at any hour. "But that would mean a world war," I pro- 
tested lamely. "Not at all," replied Ulrich. "It will all be over in a 
few days." We reminded him of France's treaty with Czechoslovakia 


and added that England was bound to support France, but he shook 
his head. "No one will fight for the Czechs." 

He went on to tell us that party headquarters were waiting for 
the signal, which might come at any moment. When Ralph asked 
him what he intended to do if war broke out, pointing out that 
Czechoslovakia wouldn't be a very healthy place for Nazi supporters, 
he answered lightly, "Oh, I have a Czech friend who has promised 
to hide me until the fighting is over. I always help him with his 
income tax." The fact that Ulrich was counting on a representative 
of an 'inferior race' to save him didn't seem to strike him as illogical. 

When Ralph and I got to Aussig we immediately put in calls to 
London but were told there was an indefinite delay. We were only 
two miles from the German frontier and went off to the election 
meeting with an uneasy feeling, wondering if our evening would be 
interrupted by the rumble of tanks and the tramp of marching feet. 

Our anxiety probably invested the rally with an exaggerated 
belligerency. But to me it was a nightmare of flags, swastikas, ban- 
ners, photographs of Henlein, posters of Hitler, and ear-splitting 
"Heils." It was held in the Town Hall which was packed by over 
6,500 Germans. The crowded corridors were lined with uniformed 
Sudeten guards, who, Ulrich confided, were future S.S. men. Beer 
flowed and a German band struck up all the famous marches. The 
candidates made speeches, gesticulating and shouting, and when one 
of them said the Sudeten Germans were tired of being ruled by "a 
race of emigre peasants" and referred to Hitler and the power of the 
Reich, the crowd burst into a frenzy of cheering, chanting "Sieg 
Heil" over and over again. 

When the meeting was over we went back to the hotel and tried 
again to get through to London. The town had suddenly become so 
quiet, the possibility of a German invasion seemed unreal, and I won- 
dered if the beer had gone to Ulrich's head and he had been talking 
nonsense. Nevertheless, I slept restlessly and about five in the morn- 
ing heard the sound of aeroplanes. I got dressed and went outside. 
Six reconnaissance planes passed overhead flying in groups of three. 
The town was still asleep, and the streets deserted. I heard the sound 
of a train and walked down to the railroad station, a few blocks 
away, to find several hundred Czech soldiers spilling onto the plat- 


form. I went back to the hotel and sent a message to Ralph; obviously 
something was up, and after a consultation we decided to return to 
Prague where we could get telephone communications. 

Herr Ulrich came with us and suddenly seemed nervous and upset; 
he didn't talk much and I wondered if perhaps he was thinking for 
the first time what it would be like to have his back-yard turned into 
a battlefield. 

From the appearance of the Hotel Ambassador at seven o'clock in 
the morning it was hard to believe anything out of the ordinary could 
be happening: a charwoman was scrubbing the floors, the desk clerk 
sorting the mail, and the lift boy mulling over the morning paper. 
The restaurant was empty and we had coffee in solitary state. We put 
in calls to London, then rang the Foreign Office, but could get no 
confirmation of any activity, and once again began to wonder if the 
whole thing was our imagination. However, about 9.30, Reynolds 
Packard of the United Press came dashing through the lobby in a 
state of excitement. I cornered him and (since I wasn't competition) 
finally succeeded in worming out the news; the Czech army, fearing 
a lightning thrust from the Germans, had called up a hundred thou- 
sand reservists and ordered a partial mobilization. My telephone call 
came a few minutes later and the calm voice of the telegrapher 
seemed from another world. 

"Good morning," he said, amiably. "How are you?" 

"Not very well. The Czech army is mobilizing." 

"I say! Why are they doing that?" 

"They think the German Army's coming across the frontier." 

"I say! Are you sure?" 

"I'm sure the Czechs are mobilizing." 

"I say! Fancy that. That is news." 

I left a message for Mr. Hadley, the editor, saying I would cover 
the news story and would ring again that evening. 

The rest of the day was one of fevered activity. Before noon the 
lobby of the Hotel Ambassador was swarming with journalists. 
Telephones were ringing from half the capitals of Europe, messen- 
ger boys dashing through the lobby with urgent telegrams, and the 
Czech porters scratching their heads and looking on in bewilderment. 

The news of the mobilization spread through the capital quickly: 


cafes became alive with speculation and "extras" were bought up as 
soon as they appeared in the streets. I rang up Major Lowell Riley, 
the American Military Attache, and that afternoon we took a drive 
towards Tabor, a town in the direction of the Austrian Frontier; 
but we passed only half a dozen lorry-loads of soldiers, for most of 
the men were being sent to the Czech "Maginot Line" along the 
frontier. That night no one went to bed; crowds gathered on the 
boulevards shouting "Long live Czechoslovakia!" and "Down with 
Henlein!" Feeling was running high and policemen kept the throngs 
moving for fear of clashes between Czechs and Germans. 

A few days later the crisis blew over. The Germans indignantly 
denied that they had any "dishonourable intentions" towards Czecho- 
slovakia; British and French Statesmen reprimanded President 
Benesch like a master reprimanding a mischievous schoolboy; and 
the Czech army finally demobilized. But that was the beginning, 
not the end, for in that month of May the Czechs knew that sooner 
or later the issue would come to a showdown. From then on, living 
in Prague (as the Czech porter said) was like living with the sword 
of Damocles hanging over your head. It would fall the only ques- 
tion was when. 

The fact that Czechoslovakia's independence must be defended by 
flesh and blood was accepted as a grim fact. The powerful democ- 
racies took their freedom for granted, but the Czechs had enjoyed 
self-government for only twenty years; they guarded it with the 
hard possessiveness of a peasant people, whose bodies still bore the 
marks of chains. After the mobilization, whenever the sightseeing 
guide in Prague drove people to the old Town Hall, he stopped 
before the heavily-enscrolled clock and said fiercely: "This clock was 
built in 1499. We were a free nation then; we are a free nation now; 
and we will remain a free nation." 

At that time, Czechoslovakia had deep faith in her alliances with 
France and Russia, and even though fight she must, she was con- 
fident that in the end she would triumph. One night I went to a 
performance of "Libuse," Smetana's opera, in which there was a 
prophecy that the Czech people would always survive final domina- 
tion. When the curtain fell the normally phlegmatic Czech audience 
rose and cheered for twenty minutes. 


Things soon drifted back to normal. But although the capital pre- 
sented an outward calm, tension remained. If you spoke German in 
the shops, you quickly scratched beneath the placid Slav surface 
and were met with icy silence. Since few foreigners could talk Czech 
they were forced to adopt the method of beginning in English, then 
switching to French (neither of which could be understood), until 
German finally became a relief. 

The antagonism between Germans and Czechs, inflamed by Hit- 
ler's rising star, was not difficult for the Nazis to capitalize, for the 
rift between the two was an old one. For three hundred years the 
Czechs of Bohemia had lived under the domination of the Hapsburgs 
at Vienna, who treated them as a wholly inferior race. When the 
Great War broke out they reacted by deserting in hundreds of thou- 
sands to the Allied side, where they formed units and fought with 
the French, the Italians, and the Russians. 

Thus in 1918 the Czechs were representatives of a victorious cause, 
while the Sudeten Germans were among the vanquished. The incor- 
poration of victor and vanquished under a single Government offered 
sufficient difficulties in itself. But the fact that the old subject race 
the Slav was now the master of Bohemia (even though Bohemia 
was historically the Slavs' rightful land) was what the Sudetens most 
deeply resented; and the Czechs, jealous of their hard-bought inde- 
pendence, did not make it easier. 

The Germans protested bitterly against discrimination and com- 
plained that their people were constantly subjected to irritations by 
officials who could speak only Czech. Many of these grievances were 
legitimate, but on looking back it seems astonishing that anyone could 
have solemnly argued the pros and cons of the German case, when 
the latter had already suppressed their own minorities with un- 
equalled savagery. 

What is even more astonishing in the light of past events, is that 
the Henlein party, maintaining headquarters in Prague, was allowed 
to carry on propaganda that ate into the spinal column of the nation 
like a malignant cancer until the end. It was due, I suppose, to the 
Czech's stubborn faith in democracy. But even in the relatively quiet 
month of May, Nazi headquarters struck a jarring note. 

They were established in the office of the newspaper, Die Zeit, 


over a large restaurant known as the Deutsches Haus. I remember 
the first time I went there leaving a thoroughly Czech world with 
its sprawling, indistinguishable advertisements and posters, walking 
down an alleyway, and turning into a dark doorway. The restaurant 
was crowded with Germans heiling Hitler and giving the Nazi salute. 
The walls were decorated with pictures of Henlein and large red 
streamers predicting victory in the demands of autonomy. The outer 
halls were filled with German guards. The first day I went there the 
German who issued my permit wrote down by mistake, "Deutsches 
Reich" instead of "Deutsches Haus" When I showed it to the guards 
at the door they burst into laughter. "Deutsches Reich! Das ist gut!" 
They bowed delightedly and let me pass. 

Frequently those days the windows of the Deutsches Haus were 
smashed by Czechs. As Czechs were not permitted in the building, 
I was astonished to see four men in Czech uniform strolling through 
the restaurant, smiling and bowing. I learned they were Sudeten Ger- 
mans who were doing their two-year compulsory service in the 
Czech army. 

I went upstairs to the office of Die Zeit, pushed my way through 
a hall filled with unsmiling party workers (mostly boys in their early 
twenties) and asked for Herr Ulrich. I hadn't seen him since our trip 
to Aussig, and wanted to collect some material on the elections. But 
the man at the desk told me that he was away "indefinitely." His 
whereabouts seemed to be a mystery, and I wondered if he had sud- 
denly become frightened at the magnitude of the drama and decided 
to wash his hands of the whole affair. I never saw him again. 

One afternoon, a day or so before I returned to England, Profes- 
sor B., a Czech to whom I had been given a letter of introduction, 
took me to tea at an outdoor restaurant on a hill high above Prague. 
It was one of the most beautiful spring days I have ever seen. The 
slope in front of us was white with cherry blossoms, and to the left 
the ancient towers of Hradschin Palace rose towards the sky like a 
fairy palace; far below the river Moldau glistened in the sunshine like 
a strand of golden hair. 

The Czech professor talked about the difficult days we were living 
through, and expressed an almost childish faith that since democracy 
was right, it was bound to triumph, "But, life will not be easy," he 


sighed. "I find myself staring at the cherry blossoms very hard this 
year, wondering whether I shall see them again next spring." He 
lapsed into silence, then shook his head. "I think not," he said. 

The following spring, shortly after the Germans marched into 
Prague, I heard he had been sent to a concentration camp. 


Chapter IV 



Mrs. Ernest Hemingway) and I went into a public-house in Bir- 
mingham to try and get an idea of what the ordinary people 
in England were thinking. It was a typical English pub in the work- 
ing-class district with grey, colourless walls, a dartboard in one corner 
and two cheap racing prints over the bar. 

It was about six o'clock in the evening and soon the room began 
filling up with factory workers, their wives and girl friends. There 
was an air of reserve that made it difficult to get into conversation, 
but, finally, an elderly gentleman sitting in the corner, in a long, 
yellow dust-coat, made a comment on the weather and we eagerly 
jumped into the breach and told him we were Americans who were 
touring about England. "Is that so?" he replied. "I've never talked 
with Americans before." We thought the ice was broken and sat 
back, eagerly waiting for him to ply us with questions, but he lapsed 
into silence and we suddenly realized the conversation had 

The public-house grew crowded: everybody knew everybody 
else; it was "Good evening, Bill," and "Nice to see you, Jim," and 
then each retired to his own little group and talked in low, modulated 
voices. The calm was nearly upset, though, when the door opened 
and a stranger appeared carrying a large valise. He stood in the 
middle of the room, opened the suit-case, and took out an array of 
ties. Instantly the air was charged with hostility. The woman next 
to us said it was an outrage for salesmen to come and disturb people, 
when all they wanted was to be left alone to enjoy a nice, quiet 



drink. Fortunately, the barmaid intervened and told him to go away, 
and the room soon regained its normal composure. 

By this time the atmosphere was thawing, and the group next to 
us allowed us to join in their conversation. We succeeded in turning 
the talk to politics, and the charwoman, who worked in a cafe, said 
she wouldn't live in a Fascist country "not for a thousand pounds a 
month." In England, she explained, people respect each other's 
rights; but as far as she could gather foreigners weren't the same. 
She had seen them in the moving pictures, with "everybody in uni- 
form, marching, and waving flags." "But if they like it," she added, 
"it's not up to us to criticize; we should stop at home and mind our 
own business." 

Her husband, an ex-sailor, backed her up in that. He said he had 
travelled all over the world, and England was the only place to live 
in. He longed to reminisce on his experiences in China, but his wife 
had evidently heard the stories before, and kept the conversation well 
in hand. The British Government, she explained, was the best Gov- 
ernment in the world. "No one would be foolish enough to start a 
war against us, because we always win." 

"That's right," the sailor interrupted. "Twist the lion's tail once 
too often, and you're for it." The third man in the group, a worker 
in an electrical plant, shook his head morosely. "When I read the 
papers," he said, "sometimes I have my doubts." The other two were 
exasperated. "Now, be sensible. Whoever heard of England getting 
beaten?" The little man shook his head and sank into silence, thor- 
oughly squashed. 

Martha and I motored through the Midlands as far north as New- 
castle and back to London again. We picked our people at random 
in pubs, tea-shops, at A.R.P. meetings and dockyard restaurants; we 
talked with farmers, factory workers, waiters, mechanics and ship- 
builders. And always we got the same reaction. "War! Who wants 
a war?" They seemed to take it for granted that "foreigners" were 
always squabbling among themselves, but the fact that these squabbles 
might involve them wasn't even a possibility to be discussed. Malcolm 
Muggeridge summed it up in The Thirties, when he wrote: 

"Public events, however portentous, trouble little the great 


mass of mankind, who feel with reason that they are powerless to 
influence them, and in any case must endure their consequences. 
An aching tooth is more woeful than Hitler, a cold in the head of 
greater concern to the sufferer than the annexation of Albania. 
What turns a Foreign Secretary grey and haggard in a few months, 
leaves unperturbed the half-million who assemble to watch the 

Martha had come to England to write an article for Collier's Maga- 
zine. Her editor, three thousand miles away in New York, was 
alarmed; he saw a civil war raging in Spain; he saw the French Army 
manning three frontiers; the German Army elated after its absorp- 
tion of Austria; and the Czech Army digging in its third line of 
defence only twelve miles from Prague. He saw the British Isles, 
once immune from attack, now transformed through the develop- 
ment of aircraft into one of the most vulnerable targets in Europe. 
"What is the reaction of the British public?" he cabled. "Are the 
people alarmed? What do they think of Fascism, or Aggression, of 
the possibility of war?" 

Martha was at her wits' end. "I can't cable back 'War! Who wants 
a war?' " she said indignantly. And yet even in the armament manu- 
facturing towns such as Sheffield and Newcastle the people we saw 
showed no apprehension. Oh yes, they were making armaments 
and a fine thing it was for employment, but use them? On 

To direct questions, such as "Would you fight for Czecho- 
slovakia?" we received a confusion of replies. The waiters in a cafe 
in Leeds said they would fight if the Government had signed any 
obligations, but had the Government signed obligations? they asked. 
Several textile workers at a nearby table, all ex-service men, inter- 
rupted to say they wouldn't fight on foreign territory again; but this 
brought a sharp retort from an elderly waitress, who said it was a 
shame to give Americans such an impression. "Of course the boys 
will fight," she said, "for King and Country." 

But it was all a far-away drama, and the reason it was far away 
seemed due to the extraordinary faith which the ordinary man ap- 


peared to have in the "experts" who ran the country. Over and over 
again we had it carefully explained that it was difficult for outsiders 
to judge the situation, because negotiations were private. Things, we 
were told, were never as bad as they seemed in the papers for the 
Government always had "an extra trick up its sleeve." People ap- 
peared to be confused as to why Mr. Eden resigned, the general 
opinion being that he was "a fine man with high ideals." Mr. Cham- 
berlain was also a fine man because he was pledged to do everything 
to keep the country out of war and Mr. Churchill was fine because 
he made good speeches. 

In fact, everything was fine that June 1938, three and a half months 
before the German Army crossed the Czechoslovakian frontier. 
Martha was infuriated by the complacency. The fact that the work- 
ing-man in England was not stung to fury (as she was) by the 
treatment of his brothers in Spain or the doom of his brothers in 
Czechoslovakia struck her as shameful. 

Soon our trip began to take on the mild form of a lecture tour. 
The sentence "War! Who wants a war?" became like a red rag tc 
a bull, and with a burst of exasperation Martha told them about 
Adolf Hitler, his mighty armies and his hosts of bombers. But they 
only looked at her with mild surprise as though she were a little 
queer in the head, and by the time we reached Lord Feversham's 
house in Yorkshire, on Sunday afternoon for tea, her indignation 
knew no bounds. 

She had scarcely said hello before she was telling Sim Feversham 
(then Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture) that the people 
in the country could think of nothing else but racing and the 

Sim found it funny. To begin with, he thought our trip very odd. 
"Fancy going round to the pubs and asking people what they think. 
You two are a couple of warmongers. Just trying to upset the coun- 
try and stir up trouble." 

Martha said she was going to stir up more trouble by talking to his 
peasants. "In England we call them farmers," he said. "I know," 
retorted Martha. "That's what you call them." 


An hour or so later we were tramping across the fields to one of 
the cottages on Sim's estate. The door opened and a very old man 

"Good morning, Geoff,'* said Sim amiably. "How are you?" 

The old man was delighted to see his master. "Oh, good morning, 
m'lord," he said, bowing several times. "Good morning, won't you 
come in?" 

Sim shook his head. "We've just walked over to ask you a few 
questions. These two girls have been driving around England war- 
mongering. They think there's going to be a war. Now, you don't 
think there's going to be a war, do you, Geoff?" 

"Oh no, m'lord. No, m'lord." 

"You think things are all right, don't you, Geoff?" 

"Yes, m'lord. Yes, m'lord." 

"You don't think Hitler wants a war with England, do you, 

"No, m'lord. No, m'lord." 

"In fact, you think all this talk is rather silly, don't you, Geoff?" 

"Yes, m'lord. Yes, m'lord." 

Martha couldn't stand any more. She stamped back across the 
fields, Sim following behind, grinning from ear to ear. "Just try 
coming to my country some day," she exclaimed. "You won't 
get all that bowing and scraping, and imagine putting those 
ideas into that poor old man's head! When the war does come, 
your corpse will be found bobbing about in the river and we'll 
know who did it. But you can rest assured / won't give him 

A year and a half later Geoff "turned." I ran into Sim just before 
he left with his regiment for Palestine, and he told me that soon 
after Munich, Martha's "peasants" began to regard him with the 
gravest suspicion. When he said good-bye to Geoff, the old man 
remarked: "It's too bad to see you in a uniform, m'lord," then glared 
ferociously. "But I suppose we must pay for our mistakes. Isn't that 
so, m'lord?" 

Sim told me to be sure and inform Martha. "It will please her a 
lot. Do you think she thinks we are going to get beaten?" 


"No," I sai'd, "I don't." For I remembered how, on the way home, 
Martha, still infuriated, had remarked: "And the worst part of it is, 
their skulls are so thick, you can't crack them. If the world comes 
to an end to-morrow, and there's only one person left, I know it's 
bound to be an Englishman!" 

Part Four 



Chapter I 



suddenly, the way the sun streamed through the chestnut trees; you 
watched the fountains at the Rond Point shooting into the air like 
a stream of diamonds; and you wandered along the banks of the 
Seine, wondering, with a fear that clutched at your heart, how long 
the glow of Paris would stay undimmed. 

Only a few days before, on August i5th, the news had been 
flashed around the world that the German Army was mobilizing. 
Already the decorations, put up in July for the visit of the King and 
Queen of England, were being replaced by red, white and blue 
posters, calling on the people to prepare for the national defence 
"pour sauvegarder la patrie" Newspapers brought out extras every 
few hours and politics absorbed the minds of everyone from states- 
men to couturiers. Peace was dying. In their hearts people knew it, 
but the actual fact was so appalling they clung desperately to hope. 
They kept a vigil in the death-chamber, clasping the patient's cold 
hands and refusing to admit, even to themselves, the growing pallor 
of her face. 

The agony of that long illness was terrible to watch. It lasted over 
a year, but the anguish of Europe was never again so acute as during 
those summer months when every type of medicine hope, treach- 
ery, idealism and compromise were feverishly injected in her veins 
in a desperate attempt to keep her alive. Her recovery at Munich 
was an artificial one. After that she went into a coma and a year 
later died. 

I had given up all idea of returning to America and joined the staff 
of the London Sunday Times as a permanent "roving" correspond- 



ent. During the next year my job sent me to many countries and 
many capitals, and I watched the lights in the death-chamber go out 
one by one, until the sheets were pulled up over the corpse's head 
and the European continent reverberated to the roar of bombers. 
That pre-Munich August, when despair was sweeping France, I 
stayed once again with the Baroness X in her flat off the Champs 
Elysees where I had written my Spanish articles. 

The sun flooded the balcony and the shrill voice of the concierge 
broke the early morning stillness just as it had the year before. The 
only difference was that now the concierge no longer spent her time 
bargaining; instead, she discussed the political situation. One morn- 
ing I overheard her arguing with the baker. He was grumbling that 
France's internal affairs were a melange of stupidity; no one ever 
seemed to agree while Germany, on the other hand, made lightning 
decisions. This brought a sharp retort from the concierge, who said, 
naturally, it was bound to be so; Germany was Hitler, but France 
was a lot of people. She rebuked him for putting the blame on in- 
ternal affairs. France's difficulty was not due to the falling birth-rate 
or the devaluation of the franc, or even the friction between Left and 
Right. France's difficulty, she said fiercely, was the same as it had 
always been her geographical position. I couldn't hear the baker's 
reply. Probably he agreed, for it was the terrible repetition of history 
that haunted the French more than anything else. The scarred battle- 
fields of the north had not even had time to heal and now the German 
Army was marching again. 

I had never seen those battlefields and one morning I took a train 
to Amiens with Tommy Thompson, who had come to Paris on leave. 
We hired a taxi and drove to Vimy Ridge, and then to Bapaume and 
across the old Somme battlefield. I was startled to find how fresh the 
wounds of the last struggle had remained. For miles we drove through 
a battered and desolate countryside. With the world on the threshold 
of a new war, the old war seemed to move out of the pages of history 
like an angry skeleton. Along the main road there were still signs 
warning the public not to trespass beyond certain limits for fear of 
unexploded shells and grenades. Further on there were crumbling 
machine-gun emplacements and rusted barbed wire stakes stuck in 


the ground as firmly as on the day when some hand had placed them 
there two decades ago. 

Along Vimy Ridge the ground was pitted with shell-holes and 
gouged by huge mine craters. Over 100,000 men had died on the hill 
before it had finally been captured by the Canadians in 1917. It was 
grim walking up the Ridge, but when we reached the top the skeleton 
vanished and tragedy turned into a bitter comedy. It was a sunny day 
and the slope was crowded with sightseers. Families had brought 
picnic lunches with them and settled themselves comfortably in shell- 
holes which offered shade from the sun. Guides were busy conduct- 
ing parties of tourists into the damp, twisting underground tunnels 
where the soldiers had fought for five francs a head. Nearby, a 
luncheon-stand did a thriving business in beer and snacks. 

Tommy got into conversation with our taxi-driver, and discovered 
he had fought in the first battle of Vimy Ridge. He regarded the 
scene with a certain ironical amusement. It was all right for people 
to bring picnic lunches, he said. When he had been in the trenches 
he and his friends had often joked that one day people would pay 
money to see where they had fought. But what wasn't all right was 
that only twenty years later Europe should be standing on the brink 
of another war. But he shrugged his shoulders: "It is always the same 
story; France against the Boches" 

For weeks that scene haunted me. The shrug of the taxi-driver's 
shoulders and the look on his face was symbolic of the despair that 
swept the country. During the next two weeks I motored from Paris 
to Saint Jean-de-Luz, along the Spanish Frontier and up the Riviera 
to the gay and noisy port of Marseilles. I talked with people all along 
the way, and on looking over my notes, the reaction was always the 
same: war must be prevented. Over and over again, people repeated 
the phrase that Hitler was only bluffing, and if France stood firm the 
catastrophe could be averted. I suppose one should have taken warn- 
ing from this psychology. France must stand firm, not because France 
ivas firm, but in order to prevent a war. The whole policy of the 
country was built on the hypothesis that Hitler was bluffing. But 
what if Hitler wasn't bluffing, what then? 

Every week French statesmen repeated their solemn assurances 
to Czechoslovakia; it was all part of the game. Most people, myself 


included, accepted this show of strength on its face value. When I 
got back to Paris I was shocked to hear Sir Charles Mendl, the Press 
Attache of the British Embassy, say he didn't believe the French 
intended to fight for Czechoslovakia. "But how can they go back 
on their pledge?" I protested. "I don't know," replied Sir Charles. 
"But I've lived in this country for twenty-five years and it doesn't 
ring true. I don't believe they're going to fight." 

I thought Charles was cynical. When I left Paris for Berlin in 
August, I wondered if I would return to find it blacked out and the 
people of France at war. 

Berlin offered a strong contrast to the beauty of the French capi- 
tal. It was cold and windy and a feeling of menace hung in the air. 
The pavements were crowded with uniforms and the streets re- 
sounded to the sound of tanks and armoured cars. Even the sombre 
grey buildings had a forbidding look. I'd never been to Berlin before, 
and when I wandered about I had the same feeling of uneasiness as 
when I had first seen Franco's guards on the International Bridge at 
Hendaye. Instinctively, this was "the enemy." Although my country 
was three thousand miles away, the ideas for which it stood were 
threatened just as much as though its borders were contiguous with 
those of Czechoslovakia. 

I tried to overcome this feeling and set to work to gather material 
for articles. I stayed at the Hotel Adlon on the Unter den Linden, 
which, during the last war, had been the social centre of Berlin. In 
1914 the lobby had been crowded with multi-coloured Austrian, 
Hungarian and Prussian uniforms; now it was filled with the brown 
and black of the S.A. and the S.S. men. The bar of the Grill Room, 
however, was always crowded with foreigners; before lunch it filled 
up with journalists, diplomats, military attaches and business men, 
and was referred to affectionately as "The Club." 

The German clerks and porters were polite and helpful, but there 
was the same uncomfortable atmosphere I had found in Spain: always 
guarded conversations and a feeling of being watched. Most of the 
telephones were tapped and you could often hear the click of the 
recording machines at the other end of the line. The telephone of 
the British military attache, Colonel Macfarlane, was fitted with a 


wire that ran into the German War Office. This became known when 
the telephone went out of order and an engineer came to repair it. 
After labouring over it for several hours it still failed to work. The 
engineer looked at it stupidly, scratched his head, and said: "I can't 
understand it. It's working all right at the War Office." 

The German press attack on Czechoslovakia was increasing in 
violence, and even in the hotel you saw signs of uneasiness. Several 
times I found a group of waiters clustered together outside my room, 
hastily reading the English papers before delivering them, and one 
night at dinner an old lady at the next table burst into tears saying 
that it was like 1914 all over again. During the next few weeks the 
offices of the foreign correspondents were besieged by people beg- 
ging to know "what the situation really was." 

I presented my papers at the Foreign Office and the Ministry of 
Propaganda and started on a series of interviews. I visited schools, 
labour camps and welfare organisations. The Germans who took me 
round were agreeable and efficient and argued their case with con- 
viction. But all the time I couldn't help thinking of the quotation 
from Stevenson: "What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear 
what you say." The soft words about social progress were drowned 
by the rumble of tanks on the streets of Berlin. 

Every evening the foreign correspondents gathered at the Taverna, 
a small restaurant on the Courbierestrasse. The Taverna was first 
made popular by H. R. Knickerbocker and Edgar Mowrer, two 
American journalists who were expelled from Germany soon after 
Hitler came to power. (Edgar Mowrer was told to leave in 1933 after 
the publication of his book Germany Puts the Clock Back. When he 
asked on what grounds he was being expelled, the Foreign Office 
official replied bluntly: "The Fiihrer didn't like your book." To 
which Edgar is said to have replied: "Oh, that's all right. Tell him 
I didn't like his either.") 

The Taverna had continued to be a nightly meeting-place, and 
although the room was usually crowded a table was always reserved 
for the foreign press. The correspondents I saw the most of were 
Euan Butler of The Times and Edward Beattie of the United Press. 


Although The Times favoured appeasement, Euan and his colleague, 
Jimmy Holburn, managed to charge their despatches with a warning 
note which didn't endear them to the local authorities. 

Euan believed that war with Germany was inevitable. One night 
at the Taverna he looked around the room at the young German 
soldiers and the S.S. men and remarked in a ringing voice: "What a 
bore it's going to be to have to kill so many of these people." At the 
height of the attack on Czechoslovakia he persuaded the slightly 
intoxicated piano-player to swing into the Marseillaise. Some of the 
Germans joined in the tune until it suddenly dawned on them it 
wasn't the proper moment for such a song, and the manager indig- 
nantly ordered the piano-player to change to a German march. 

Most of the correspondents pooled their information, as there was 
small opportunity of getting a "scoop." There was little news apart 
from that given in official "handouts," and for the most part, a journ- 
alist's job was limited to the interpretation he put on the events of 
the day. It wasn't difficult to form an accurate appreciation of the 
situation for Berlin officials made no effort to conceal Germany's 
aims. This astonished me more than anything else. While the world 
was being assured that after a just settlement of the Sudeten Ger- 
man grievances, the Third Reich had no further ambitions, Nazi 
spokesmen in Berlin talked openly of the new world to come. 

One night I had dinner with Herr von Strempel, a Foreign Office 
official, now in the German Embassy in Washington, who told me 
bluntly that Sudeten self-determination was only another name for 
Germany's passage to the Black Sea. On another occasion, I had 
cocktails with Dr. Karl Silex, editor of the Deutsche Allgemeine 
Zeitung, who said, just as bluntly, that the whole of South-Eastern 
Europe must come under Germany's rule. Certainly there was no 
secret about it; if subsequent events came as a shock to British, 
French and American statesmen, it was not due to Nazi discretion. 

There was not a foreign correspondent in Berlin unaware of the 
fact that the "socialization" of Germany was only another term for 
the militarization of Germany; that chemists and scientists were ex- 
perimenting to increase the country's wartime self-sufficiency, while 
armament factories worked on triple shifts; that school-children were 
being drilled on "Racial Science," "Eugenics" and "Heredity," to 


prove that the superiority of the German race justified Hitler's 
programme of expansion. After Czechoslovakia more countries 
would follow until Germany became so powerful that no nation 
would dare to accept her challenge. I doubt if even the great mass 
of Germans were taken in by the press campaign against the Czechs. 
Those who believed in the Fiihrer accepted the doctrine of expansion 
as a matter of course. 

One night at the Taverna, Euan Butler got into conversation 
with a waiter, who confided that his wife was going to have another 
child. "It will be our sixth," he said proudly. When Euan asked why 
he wanted such a large family, the man regarded him with mild 
surprise: "Because Germany must advance." 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Propaganda continued to assure the 
world of Germany's pacific intentions. Certainly no country has 
ever conducted a more effective sales campaign. The flood of mate- 
rial that went forth each day from the great white building on the 
Wilhelmstrasse affected the judgment and paralysed the will of 
thousands of people. Not only did it convince many powerful poli- 
ticians of the justness of Germany's claims, but it sowed suspicion and 
fear and infected treachery into countries which have since fallen 
by the wayside. The propaganda was devised with cunning; no class 
was ignored. It attacked the capitalists to appeal to the working- 
man; it attacked the communists to appeal to the capitalists. It cre- 
ated dissension by excoriating the foreign press as "Jewish con- 
trolled." It jeered at freedom, coupling it with unemployment, and 
extolled National Socialism as a model economic system in spite of 
the fact that 40 per cent of German labour was absorbed by the 
country's expanding war-machine. To-day, it is no exaggeration to 
claim that out of the eleven countries smashed and overrun by Ger- 
many, half of them were destroyed, not by tanks, but by propa- 

When I was in the Propaganda Ministry one day, I walked into 
the wrong room by mistake and found over 200 German journalists 
gathered to receive their daily instructions. The room was noisy and 
crowded and blue with smoke. I was hustled out quickly and dis- 
covered later that I had invaded the holy of holies. The penalty for 


a German who revealed the instructions given at one of these con- 
ferences was death! 

I never met the genius of the Ministry, Dr. Goebbels, but just 
before I left Berlin I ran into him (literally) in the lobby of the 
Adlon. It was during the State visit of Admiral Horthy, the Hun- 
garian Regent. A large military demonstration was given in the 
latter's honour. It took place at the Technische Hochschule, on the 
outskirts of Berlin. Hitler and Horthy stood in the receiving box 
while shock troops goose-stepped past followed by a long proces- 
sion of tanks, guns and armoured cars. The climax of the review 
came when a Big Bertha, a cannon of enormous dimensions, was 
dragged past the stand. The crowd looked at it in astonishment, then 
burst into a roar of wild and spontaneous cheering. Ed Beattie who 
was standing next to me gave a sour smile and remarked above the 
din, "A dear little German reaction." In the next box the military 
attaches scribbled notes on their cuffs and the agency correspondents 
made a dash for the nearest telephone box. The gun wasn't a new 
invention, only a showpiece; at any rate, it seemed to have the de- 
sired effect on the crowd. 

After the review we went back to the hotel. Admiral Horthy had 
brought a large retinue with him and the lobby was crowded with 
brightly-coloured uniforms, medals and decorations. In the midst 
of all the splendour, stood a small man in a drab brown uniform, his 
back turned to me. He seemed out of place among the gay plumage 
and I remember thinking he was probably a humble aide-de-camp. 
About ten minutes later a telephone call came for me, and I pushed 
my way through the crowded lobby and made a dash around the 
corner to the public booth. I collided squarely with the small man 
in the brown uniform. I stepped back, apologizing, and saw that 
he was no other than Dr. Joseph Paul Goebbels. He smiled wryly 
and went off, rubbing his shoulder. That was my only contact with 
him. But on looking back, the events of the day seemed to fit into 
a neat pattern: the gun and Dr. Goebbels; the sword and the pen; 
Germany marches on. 


Chapter U 



streets of Nuremberg like a river that had burst its dams. A million 
red, white and black swastikas fluttered from the window-ledges, 
and the town, swollen to three times its normal size, resounded to 
the ring of leather boots and blazed with a bewildering array 
of uniforms. 

Although the vast regimentation of modern Germany was a phe- 
nomenon which only the machine age could produce, at night the 
mediaeval background became curiously real. The clock swung 
back to the Middle Ages. The long red pennants, fluttering from the 
turreted walls of Nuremberg Castle, shone in the moonlight like the 
standards of an old religious war; the tramp of marching feet and 
the chorus of voices chanting the militant Nazi hymns had all the 
passion of an ancient crusade. It was only when you heard the sudden 
whine of a silver-winged fighter, travelling at three hundred miles 
an hour, that you were jerked back to the grim reality of 1938. 

That grim reality had cast a dread shadow over the Party Congress, 
for this was "crisis week." Never in history had a crisis been more 
cold-bloodedly manufactured. For days the world had known the 
exact form it would take, even the date of its culmination. It had 
watched the attack against Czechoslovakia growing in violence, and 
now, with the German Army mobilized, it waited for the crescendo 
to be sounded by Hitler's speech, dramatically planned for the last 
day of the Congress. 

The very fact that the crisis was a manufactured one made it all 
the more to be feared, for its calculated ruthlessness. The faces of 
politicians, diplomats and journalists were strained and anxious. In 



the hotel lobbies groups of people clustered together and talked in 
low voices. You saw Italian diplomats in earnest conversation with 
delegates from Nationalist Spain; German party leaders smiling at 
the Japanese, worried French statesmen cornered with the British. 
Newspaper correspondents from most of the capitals of Europe 
hurried through the lobbies, asking questions and exchanging in- 
formation, while messenger boys dashed up with cables, and tele- 
phones rang continuously from Berlin and London and Paris. 

There were only three large hotels in Nuremberg and most of 
the rooms were filled with German officials and favoured delegates 
such as the Italian, Spanish and Japanese. The foreign press was 
shunted off on to railway sleeping-cars outside the town. I was lucky 
enough to persuade the manager of the Hotel Wurttemberger Hof 
to give me a room, but my good fortune only lasted two days, for 
a fresh delegation of Japanese suddenly arrived and I was told to 
leave. Jules Sauerwein of the Paris Soir came to my rescue, and got 
me a room in a small pension where he was staying. The pension 
was run by a frowsy woman named Frau Fleischer, who took a 
passionate interest in the political situation. All day long she kept the 
radio going, and no charge against the Czechs was too outrageous 
for her to believe. She told Jules and myself that if the Kaiser had 
been in control of the country, Germany would have been at war 
long ago. But Hitler had patience. He would refuse to allow himself 
to be "provoked." 

The rooms at Frau Fleischer's were dark and unswept, and break- 
fast was uneatable watery coffee and a piece of black bread. Even 
so, I was lucky to be there, for not only were the hotels too full to 
accommodate the press, but even the foreign diplomats had been 
relegated to sleeping-cars. The ambassadorial trains were at a siding 
twenty minutes from the town. A fleet of cars was placed at the 
service of the diplomats, and a squad of S.S. men were on duty as 
aides-de-camp. Everything was done for their comfort; nevertheless, 
when you walked down the bleak platform and saw the ambassadors 
of the three great democracies Great Britain, the United States and 
France leaning out of the windows of a derailed restaurant car, it 
brought it home to you that affairs in Europe had taken a turn for 
the worse! 


One morning I drove down to the train with Jules Sauerwein and 
Ward Price of the Daily Mail. They wanted to talk to their respec- 
tive ambassadors and I was anxious to find Prentiss Gilbert, the 
American Charge d'Aff aires. We passed the black-uniformed S.S. men 
and walked down the deserted platform searching for the right car. 
Ward Price caught sight of Sir Nevile Henderson in the restaurant 
car, and farther on, the French Ambassador, M. Francois Ponget, 
poked his head out of the window and waved at Jules. I got on the 
train and walked through the passages until I finally came to a com- 
partment marked "The United States." I knocked at the door and 
a voice said: "Come in." Inside, I found the American Ambassador, 
Mr. Hugh Wilson, sitting alone aimlessly drumming his fingers on 
the window-ledge. Obviously, he had nothing to do. It struck me 
painfully that this was significant of the role that the most powerful 
democracy in the world was playing at a time when civilization 
was gravely menaced. 

I exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Wilson (who seemed glad to 
have company) and learned that Prentiss Gilbert had remained in 
Berlin. When I rejoined Ward Price and Jules, they were looking 
discouraged. Jules shrugged his shoulders and said, "Some day I hope 
to find an ambassador who answers questions instead of asking them!" 

The truth of the matter was that the diplomats knew even less 
than the journalists. Hitler had refused to receive any of them, and 
their contacts were even more limited than ours. Nevertheless, Ward 
Price had hoped to find out from Nevile Henderson the meaning of 
the article which had appeared in the London Times the day before 
(September yth), suggesting that the Czechs solve their difficulties 
by ceding Sudetenland to Germany. The statesmen who believed 
the policy of "standing firm" could hold Hitler in check considered 
this a treacherous stab in the back. There was no doubt as to the 
buoying effect it had on German officialdom. Long faces became 
wreathed in smiles and minor Nazi leaders went about good-natur- 
edly assuring everybody there wouldn't be a war. Dr. Dietrich, the 
German Press chief, explained that Hitler didn't want a war. Then 
added with a sly smile, "He can get what he wants without." 

This smug conviction was widespread among the German people. 
The beer gardens rang with laughter and music and everyone merrily 


agreed that Hitler was clever enough to score by diplomacy alone. 
One afternoon I climbed the hill to the old city with Bertrand de 
Juvenel, a French journalist. We went into a small restaurant, 
crowed with S.A. men, drinking beer and eating sausages and sauer- 
kraut. Somehow it was difficult to realize that the S.A. contingents 
in their heavy black boots and their khaki uniforms, with the swas- 
tika pinned on the sleeve, were the ordinary citizens of Germany 
the bus-drivers, the hairdressers, the garage mechanics, and small 
shopkeepers. Nuremberg was a holiday for them. All day long they 
wandered about the town visiting exhibition halls, eating enormous 
meals, and having snapshots taken to send home to their girls. At 
night they filled the cafes and were always the last to leave. 

The particular group of S.A. men in the restaurant were tall and 
blond with honest, scrubbed faces. There were no empty tables and 
they cordially invited Bertrand and myself to join them. When they 
asked what nationality we were and Bertrand replied that he was a 
Frenchman, their eyes grew wide with interest. 

The leader of the group, an older man, grasped his hand and 
shook it warmly; he said he had lived in France for four years. He 
added that the time had been spent in fighting the war, but never- 
theless, he felt he knew the country very well indeed. No one seemed 
to consider the conversation tactless when he tried to recall the 
names of the towns he had entered; then suddenly he broke off and 
assured Bertrand there wouldn't be another war. He had confidence 
that things would be settled in a peaceful way, for no one wanted a 
war, least of all Hitler. 

His companions nodded in agreement, then all six raised their 
glasses and drank a toast to Germany, to France, and to Czecho- 
slovakia. When they had finished, a small man at the end of the 
table, a blacksmith from Cologne, asked us what we thought of Ger- 
many; before we had time to reply he was telling us what a fine 
country it was. It wasn't like other countries, he said, for in Ger- 
many there was no unemployment. Bertrand nodded, but suggested 
that the unemployment was absorbed to some extent by the vast 
production of armaments. 

This seemed to perplex the group. A silence fell until the leader 
suddenly proffered the theory that when the international situation 


was straightened out they would stop building guns and instead they 
would build stadiums and houses and fine new parks. Everyone 
seemed relieved at this explanation, and we left amid an elaborate 
flurry of "Merci beaucoup" and "Au revoir" 

When we got outside, Bertrand shook his head sadly. "They're 
like children," he said. "Why anyone ever lets them play with ex- 
plosives, God knows!" 

More knowledgeable people were unable to share the ordinary 
German's complacency; to them the Nuremberg festivities went on 
like a gigantic fair removed from all reality. Would the merry-go- 
round suddenly stop and the lights go out? This speculation ran 
through the press room like a live current; meanwhile, the journal- 
ists were hustled about to endless speeches and reviews. 

Every morning a bulletin was posted containing a long schedule 
arranged with typical German thoroughness the time of the meet- 
ing, the hour the buses left and returned, the number that could be 
accommodated, and so forth. I went to a few of these gatherings. 
I heard Dr. Dietrich attack the press, Hitler attack the Jews, Dr. 
Rosenberg attack the Church, and Goering attack the Czechs, call- 
ing them "ridiculous dwarfs backed by Moscow." After that I pre- 
ferred to wander about by myself. 

Unfortunately, all the exhibition halls sounded the same note of 
hatred: National Socialist Germany against the Bolsheviks, the Jews 
and the world in general. The walls were decorated by enormous 
banners that said, "The struggle of Germany is the struggle to pre- 
serve civilization." Below, maps of Europe showed the spread of 
Bolshevism; Czechoslovakia was painted the same dangerous red as 
Soviet Russia, while France dwindled into a vivid pink. (I have often 
wondered what has happened to this vast array of maps and posters 
since the Russian-German alliance.) 

The Jews were vilified by literature entitled "Racial Science" and 
displays of genealogical charts and hideous photographs of "Non- 
aryan" types. Nuremberg, because its mayor was Julius Streicher, the 
notorious Jew-baiter, was one of the most rabid anti-semitic towns 
in Germany. Hundreds of shops and beer-gardens bore signs: "Jews 
not wanted," and in the old city near the market, small Streicher 
newsstands advertised anti-semitic literature. 


agreed that Hitler was clever enough to score by diplomacy alone. 
One afternoon I climbed the hill to the old city with Bertrand de 
Juvenel, a French journalist. We went into a small restaurant, 
crowed with S.A. men, drinking beer and eating sausages and sauer- 
kraut. Somehow it was difficult to realize that the S.A. contingents 
in their heavy black boots and their khaki uniforms, with the swas- 
tika pinned on the sleeve, were the ordinary citizens of Germany 
the bus-drivers, the hairdressers, the garage mechanics, and small 
shopkeepers. Nuremberg was a holiday for them. All day long they 
wandered about the town visiting exhibition halls, eating enormous 
meals, and having snapshots taken to send home to their girls. At 
night they filled the cafes and were always the last to leave. 

The particular group of S.A. men in the restaurant were tall and 
blond with honest, scrubbed faces. There were no empty tables and 
they cordially invited Bertrand and myself to join them. When they 
asked what nationality we were and Bertrand replied that he was a 
Frenchman, their eyes grew wide with interest. 

The leader of the group, an older man, grasped his hand and 
shook it warmly; he said he had lived in France for four years. He 
added that the time had been spent in fighting the war, but never- 
theless, he felt he knew the country very well indeed. No one seemed 
to consider the conversation tactless when he tried to recall the 
names of the towns he had entered; then suddenly he broke off and 
assured Bertrand there wouldn't be another war. He had confidence 
that things would be settled in a peaceful way, for no one wanted a 
war, least of all Hitler. 

His companions nodded in agreement, then all six raised their 
glasses and drank a toast to Germany, to France, and to Czecho- 
slovakia. When they had finished, a small man at the end of the 
table, a blacksmith from Cologne, asked us what we thought of Ger- 
many; before we had time to reply he was telling us what a fine 
country it was. It wasn't like other countries, he said, for in Ger- 
many there was no unemployment. Bertrand nodded, but suggested 
that the unemployment was absorbed to some extent by the vast 
production of armaments. 

This seemed to perplex the group. A silence fell until the leader 
suddenly proffered the theory that when the international situation 


was straightened out they would stop building guns and instead they 
would build stadiums and houses and fine new parks. Everyone 
seemed relieved at this explanation, and we left amid an elaborate 
flurry of "Merci beaticoup" and "Au revoir" 

When we got outside, Bertrand shook his head sadly. "They're 
like children," he said. "Why anyone ever lets them play with ex- 
plosives, God knows!" 

More knowledgeable people were unable to share the ordinary 
German's complacency; to them the Nuremberg festivities went on 
like a gigantic fair removed from all reality. Would the merry-go- 
round suddenly stop and the lights go out? This speculation ran 
through the press room like a live current; meanwhile, the journal- 
ists were hustled about to endless speeches and reviews. 

Every morning a bulletin was posted containing a long schedule 
arranged with typical German thoroughness the time of the meet- 
ing, the hour the buses left and returned, the number that could be 
accommodated, and so forth. I went to a few of these gatherings. 
I heard Dr. Dietrich attack the press, Hitler attack the Jews, Dr. 
Rosenberg attack the Church, and Goering attack the Czechs, call- 
ing them "ridiculous dwarfs backed by Moscow." After that I pre- 
ferred to wander about by myself. 

Unfortunately, all the exhibition halls sounded the same note of 
hatred: National Socialist Germany against the Bolsheviks, the Jews 
and the world in general. The walls were decorated by enormous 
banners that said, "The struggle of Germany is the struggle to pre- 
serve civilization." Below, maps of Europe showed the spread of 
Bolshevism; Czechoslovakia was painted the same dangerous red as 
Soviet Russia, while France dwindled into a vivid pink. (I have often 
wondered what has happened to this vast array of maps and posters 
since the Russian-German alliance.) 

The Jews were vilified by literature entitled "Racial Science" and 
displays of genealogical charts and hideous photographs of "Non- 
aryan" types. Nuremberg, because its mayor was Julius Streicher, the 
notorious Jew-baiter, was one of the most rabid anti-semitic towns 
in Germany. Hundreds of shops and beer-gardens bore signs: "Jews 
not wanted," and in the old city near the market, small Streicher 
newsstands advertised anti-semitic literature. 


These stands contrasted strangely with the everyday life of the 
busy market, with its brilliant array of vegetables and its plump 
Hausfrauen with market baskets over their arms. And yet history 
repeated itself, for it was in this very square in 1499 that proclama- 
tions were posted ordering the expulsion of the Jews. The campaign 
was waged by a monk named Capeistranus, and the hostile feeling 
lasted so long that it was not until 1800 that Jews were again per- 
mitted in the city as free citizens. Now they were expelled once 
more under another creed the creed of new Germany. 

"New Germany" was typified by a group of young men, hand- 
picked for the Hitler Youth, to be trained as the future leaders of 
the people. Every year a few hundred of them were chosen to come 
to Nuremberg as the finest representatives of the nation. One after- 
noon I visited their camp, the Junkerlager, a few miles outside of 
town. I went with Herr von Losch, a young Foreign Office official, 
who had been educated in England. There was nothing much to see 
when we got there, but a lean, brawny, golden-headed German, 
about twenty years old, took us about showing us the tents in which 
the men ate and slept. Their training lasted three years; most of it 
seemed to be devoted to physical exercises. The boy explained they 
spent several hours a day studying the tenets of National Socialism 
"Racial Science," "Eugenics," "Heredity," etc. But when I asked 
if they received no other instruction, he shook his head. Formerly, 
he said, they had had courses in history, literature and philosophy, 
but the professors had been unable to interpret their subjects from 
a National Socialist point of view, so their lectures had been dis- 
continued. Even Herr von Losch was embarrassed by this reply and 
we drove home in silence. 

A far more powerful factor in the New Germany than the appeal 
of Hitler's doctrine, however, was the appeal of Hitler himself. 
Many Germans believed that Hitler was actually endowed with 
superhuman qualities. I remember Frau Fleischer telling Jules Sauer- 
wein and myself that in Germany there was no need for people to 
have opinions; they had the Fiihrer's opinions and the Fiihrer was 

Certainly the idea of the superman was encouraged by the vast 
displays in Nuremberg. Everything that was done was done on a 


gigantic scale. The power of the spectacles lay not so much in their 
ingeniousness but in their immensity. The keynote was always repe- 
tition and uniformity. Instead of a few gilt eagles there were hun- 
dreds; instead of hundreds of flags there were thousands; instead of 
thousands of performers there were hundreds of thousands. 

At night the mystic quality of the ritual was exaggerated by huge 
burning urns at the top of the stadium, their orange flames leaping 
into the blackness, while the flood-lighting effect of hundreds of 
powerful searchlights played eerily against the sky. The music had 
an almost religious solemnity, timed by the steady beat of drums that 
sounded like the distant throb of tom-toms. 

One night I went to the stadium with Jules Sauerwein to hear 
an address Hitler was making to Nazi political leaders gathered from 
all over Germany. The stadium was packed with nearly 200,000 spec- 
tators. As the time for the Fiihrer's arrival drew near, the crowd grew 
restless. The minutes passed and the wait seemed interminable. Sud- 
denly the beat of the drums increased and three motor-cycles with 
yellow standards fluttering from their wind-shields raced through 
the gates. A few minutes later a fleet of black cars rolled swiftly 
into the arena: in one of them, standing in the front seat, his hand 
outstretched in the Nazi salute, was Hitler. 

The demonstration that followed was one of the most extraordi- 
nary I have ever witnessed. Hitler climbed to his box in the Grand 
Stand amid a deafening ovation, then gave signal for the political 
leaders to enter. They came, a hundred thousand strong, through an 
opening in the far end of the arena. In the silver light they seemed 
to pour into the bowl like a flood of water. Each of them carried a 
Nazi flag and when they were assembled in mass formation, the bowl 
looked like a shimmering sea of swastikas. 

Then Hitler began to speak. The crowd hushed into silence, but 
the drums continued their steady beat. Hitler's voice rasped into the 
night and every now and then the multitude broke into a roar of 
cheers. Some of the audience began swaying back and forth, chanting 
"Sieg Heir over and over again in a frenzy of delirium. I looked at 
the faces round me and saw tears streaming down people's cheeks. 
The drums had grown louder and I suddenly felt frightened. For a 
moment I wondered if it wasn't a dream; perhaps we were really in 


the heart of the African -jungle. I had a sudden feeling of claustro- 
phobia and whispered to Jules Sauerwein, asking if we couldn't 
leave. It was a silly question for we were hemmed in on all sides, and 
there was nothing to do but sit there until the bitter end. 

At last it was over. Hitler left the box and got back in the car. As 
soon as he stopped speaking the spell seemed to break and the magic 
vanish. That was the most extraordinary thing of all: for when he 
left the stand and climbed back into his car, his small figure suddenly 
became drab and unimpressive. You had to pinch yourself to realize 
that this was the man on whom the eyes of the world were riveted; 
that he alone held the lightning in his hands. 

The most fashionable gathering place in Nuremberg was the 
Grand Hotel. Here the Parteitag's Ehrengdste were housed. Usually 
they consisted of prominent foreigners from all over the world, but 
this year the French were conspicuous by their absence and only 
twenty or thirty English people were present. They included a 
sprinkling of peers eager for an Anglo-German alliance, but for the 
most part were Fascist-minded Britons, members of the Mosley Party. 

Outstanding in the English group were Lord and Lady Redesdale 
and their daughter, the Honourable Unity Valkyrie Mitford. Unity 
was a tall Juno-esque girl, with shoulder-length blonde curls and 
large blue eyes. She worshipped Hitler with a school-girl passion 
and had persuaded her mother and father to come to Germany with 
her to see for themselves how wonderful he was. 

Unity's brother, Tom Mitford, was a friend of mine in London 
and I had met the Redesdales before, so I saw them several times 
during the week. It was their first visit to Germany, and they treated 
the whole affair as though it were as detached from their lives, or 
their future of their country, as a bizarre operetta. Lady Redesdale 
was a small retiring woman who spent most of her time (when she 
was not at one of the reviews with Unity) in the corner of the 
hotel lobby sewing, while Lord Redesdale, a tall, handsome man with 
a large white moustache, wandered about with a bewildered air as 
though he were at a rather awkward house party where (curiously 
enough) no one could speak any English. 


Owing to the fact that Unity was known to be a friend of Hitler, 
all week long Lord Redesdale was inundated with frantic letters 
begging him to use his influence to stop the war. One day he re- 
ceived a note from the Buchman Society which was holding a con- 
ference in Geneva. The note begged him to show the Fiihrer a 
letter which had been published in the London Times on September 
loth (referring to the need for moral re-armament), declaring that 
it might "change the Fiihrer and alter the course of history." His 
slightly petulant comment was: "Dammit all, I haven't got a copy 
of The Times." 

Somehow it was all like a chapter from P. G. Wodehouse. 

Besides bringing her family with her, Unity had also invited 
Robert Byron to Nuremberg. This gave the group an even more 
curious complexion, for there was certainly no more rabid an anti- 
Nazi than Robert. He was an Englishman in his early thirties, who 
had already established a reputation as a writer and expert on Eastern 
art. I had known Robert in London, and during the week we fre- 
quently wandered about the town and visited the beer gardens to- 
gether. Robert had come to Nuremberg out of curiosity and was 
undecided as to whether the show was comic or sinister. 

"These people are so grotesque," he kept saying. "If we go to 
war, it will be like fighting a gigantic zoo." 

Robert maintained a light vein but at times his indignation got the 
better of him. I remember one afternoon when we went into the 
Wurttemberger Hof for tea. The restaurant was crowded with offi- 
cials, all of whom seemed in a very jolly frame of mind, laughing 
and talking loudly. Seated at the next table were Dr. Silex, editor of 
the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Dr. Dietrich the Press Chief, Dr. 
von Dircksen the German Ambassador to London, and Herr von 
Losch of the Foreign Office. They invited us to join them, and soon 
the conversation had turned inevitably to the topics of the day. 
Dr. Silex referred to the article in the London Times and said he 
was sure England would come to her senses before it was too late 
and realize that Czechoslovakia was not the concern of Britain but 
of Germany. I saw a red flush rising on Robert's neck and the next 
moment I heard him saying in a deadly voice, "What happens on the 
Continent is always England's concern. Every now and then we arc 


unfortunate enough to be led by a Chamberlain but that's only 
temporary. Don't be misguided. In the end we always rise up and 
oppose the tyrannies that threaten Europe. We have smashed them 
before, and I warn you we will smash them again." A terrible silence 
fell, then Herr von Losch laughed uneasily and suggested that we 
talk of "less serious things." The conversation was strained, and 
when we got up to leave no one urged us to stay. 

All week long Hitler had appeared grave and preoccupied. He 
had refused to receive foreign diplomats and even talk to his own 
advisers. But on Saturday afternoon he appeared at a tea which Herr 
von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, gave in his honour. 
Invitations were eagerly sought, but the guest list was limited to about 
seventy people, most of whom were diplomats and delegates. I was 
lucky enough to be included and at four o'clock the guests gathered 
at the Hotel Deutscher Hof. Ribbentrop, smiling and obsequious, 
stood at the door, receiving. The banquet hall was crowded with 
small tea-tables, and on each one was a card saying: "Please Don't 
Smoke In The Presence Of The Fiihrer." 

Most of the leading German officials were present Goering, 
Goebbels, Himmler, Heidrich, Hess, and many others. Unity Mit- 
ford was there, surrounded by officials who kissed her hand and 
bowed and scraped. She seemed rather embarrassed by their atten- 
tion, left the group, and joined my table; a few minutes later the 
doors swung open and Hitler came in. Everybody rose to their feet 
and the German Party leaders stood rigidly at attention, giving the 
Nazi salute. 

I had never seen Hitler at close quarters before and what struck 
me most was his lack of distinction. If he hadn't been Adolf Hitler 
he would have been lost in the crowd. There was nothing in his 
face, or his walk, or his smile that either attracted or repelled. He was 
just an ordinary and rather inconspicuous little man. On the other 
hand, this was provocative in itself and I found myself searching his 
face for some sign of the genius that had raised him to his giddy 

He took his place at a table across the room at which there were 


about a dozen men, including two English peers: Lord Stamp and 
Lord Brocket. There was also Ward Price (of the Daily Mail) and 
Heir Henlein, the leader of the Sudeten German Nazi Party. 

When everyone was seated Hitler's gaze wandered over the gath- 
ering and his eyes suddenly lit on Unity. His face broke into a smile, 
he nodded, and gave her the Nazi salute. She saluted back and a few 
minutes later Captain Wiedemann, Hitler's A.D.C., came over to 
our table and whispered in Unity's ear, "The Fiihrer would like to 
see you. When tea is over he would like you to come to his suite." 
Unity nodded. I couldn't help thinking how odd it was that, on the 
brink of war between Germany and Great Britain, the only person 
that the Fiihrer would condescend to see was a twenty-four-year- 
old English girl. 

During the rest of tea Hitler was in high spirits. He kept up a 
steady stream of conversation with Lord Brocket and several times 
threw back his head and laughed loudly. I had always imagined him 
a grave and melancholy man and was surprised by his animation. His 
glance continuously wandered to our table and I had the impression 
that he was showing off to impress Unity! 

After the reception Unity had her talk with Hitler and came back 
to the Grand Hotel just before dinner. I hastily cornered her and 
asked what he had said and whether or not she thought there was 
going to be a war. "I don't think so," she smiled. "The Fiihrer 
doesn't want his new buildings bombed." 

She went on to add she had never seen Hitler in more exuberant 
spirits. "He says it's very exciting to have the whole world trembling 
before him. He needs the excitement as other people need food and 
drink." Somehow, it was profoundly disturbing to hear that Hitler 
was actually enjoying himself while people all over Europe tossed 
in their beds. 

That night I dined with Robert Byron, Ward Price and Unity 
at a small restaurant in the old city. It was difficult to get across the 
town, as the Storm Troopers' parade was scheduled to begin at nine 
o'clock and no cars were allowed on the streets. Unity, however, 
arranged for one of the S.S. cars to drive us to the restaurant, and 
we soon found ourselves in a long, sleek, black car racing through 
empty streets with crowds on either side. Unity sat in front with 


the black-uniformed chauffeur, her blonde curls streaming in the 
wind, like the Valkyrie after which she was named. 

The restaurant was near the river and as we sat there we could 
hear the sound of tramping feet in the distance and voices rising into 
the chant of Nazi military hymns. It was a starlight night, but some- 
how the beauty of our surroundings seemed to add to a general 
feeling of depression. 

Unity was the only one in gay spirits and talked at length about 
Hitler. "The first moment I saw him," she said "I knew there was 
no one in the world I would rather meet." 

That moment was in 1933 at the first Nazi Partietag, which she 
attended, with her sister Diana (now Lady Mosley). Deeply im- 
pressed by Hitler's personality, she was determined to become 
acquainted with him. Since she couldn't speak German, she decided 
to master the language first. She studied in Munich for nearly two 
years, then tried to find someone to introduce her to him. For weeks 
she had no success. One night she went into a beer-garden and found 
him sitting at a table with a group of friends. She watched him with 
admiring attention. He dropped a magazine and she sprang to pick 
it up. The following night she went back to the beer-garden, and 
again found him there. Summoning her courage, she walked over to 
his table and stammered that she was the girl who had picked up his 
magazine, and asked if she could talk with him. He smiled and in- 
vited her to join him. From then on they were friends. 

To Unity, National Socialism was a Left Wing revolution and 
Hitler the champion of the downtrodden masses. There was no doubt 
that the latter was flattered by her admiration and sincerely fond of 
her. He often telephoned her, gave her presents, and in public treated 
her with deference. Although the Nazi Party leaders fawned over 
her in public, in private they were jealous of the friendship. Tom 
Mitford told me that when Unity went to Germany they often re- 
fused to tell Hitler she had arrived. The only way she could get into 
communication with him was to wait in the street, sometimes for 
hours, hoping to catch his eye when he passed. 

She seldom asked for favours and in spite of the attentions thrust 
upon her during the week of the Party Congress kept modestly in 
the background. She had a straightforward friendly manner and a 
lively sense of humour. Her rather naive observations on Hitler were 


at times strangely revealing. When I asked her what she talked with 
him about, she replied, "Gossip." He liked to hear the anecdotes his 
advisers were apt to overlook. For instance, when Madame de Fon- 
tanges, the French journalist, fired a revolver at Count de Chambrun, 
the French Ambassador in Rome, declaring that the latter had tried 
to thwart her romance with Mussolini, Unity related the episode to 
Hitler. She said he thought it very funny and laughed delightedly, 
saying what a narrow squeak it might have been for "poor old 

According to her, Hitler had a sense of humour and liked com- 
pany. He was a man who seldom read, but when he was at Berchtes- 
gaden spent a good deal of time drawing up architectural plans for 
new housing settlements. "But what he really likes/' she said, "is ex- 
citement. Otherwise he gets bored." 

Somehow, the thought that world happiness hung on the ennui 
of one man was a frightening contemplation. But the remark that 
struck me most was her comment on Hitler's talent as an imitator. She 
claimed that if he were not the Fiihrer of Germany, he would make 
a hundred thousand dollars a year on the vaudeville stage. He often 
did imitations of his colleagues Goering, Goebbels and Himmler 
but, best of all, he liked to imitate Mussolini. This always provoked 
roars of laughter. "And sometimes," added Unity, "he even imitates 

Now this threw a new light on the character of the Fiihrer. This 
was the personality of the showman, not the fanatic. No sincere 
crusader would laugh at his own expense. Perhaps, after all (to quote 
Hitler), he was "an artist, not a politician." 

I didn't wait for Hitler's Nuremberg speech, scheduled for Mon- 
day night. I had done my article for the Sunday Times and decided 
to return to Paris where I could collect clothes and money, and 
leave for Prague if the situation grew worse. Just before the plane 
left, Robert Byron came to say good-bye to me. He said Lady Redes- 
dale had lost her embroidery needle and Lord Redesdale was search- 
ing for it on his hands and knees in the middle of the Grand Hotel 
lobby, while a flow of heavily-booted Storm Troopers and S.S, men 
strode past in every direction. 

if Now, that's symbolic of England. You might almost say it was 
like looking for a needle in a sword-rack!" 


Chapter 111 



er's flat on the Quai de Bethune the whining, cajoling, bullying 
voice, that rose to a scream with the sentence: "If these tortured 
creatures (the Sudeten Germans) cannot obtain rights and assist- 
ance by themselves, they can obtain both from us." 

On looking back it seems strange the speech should have left 
anyone in doubt, but it did. Optimists pointed out that Hitler hadn't 
committed himself to a "definite" line of action. Perhaps this was 
the master bluff; if the democracies stood firm, he now might be 
forced to accept his first diplomatic defeat. On the other hand, could 
a dictator back down? Statesmen had not yet learned that clever 
words and subtle manoeuvres no longer fashioned policies; the only 
things that counted were guns, tanks and planes. 

When the speech was over I drove to the Quai d'Orsay to see M. 
Coumert, the French Foreign Press Chief, with John Whitaker of 
the Chicago Daily News. He received us with a smile. "It is better 
than we expected. Naturally, the picture isn't altogether rosy but 
it might have been worse. He didn't say he would attack Czecho- 

In that atmosphere of uncertainty and false hope the only wise 
reaction we got was from the taxi-driver who took us home. John 
asked him if he had heard the speech and muttered something about 
Hitler being a maniac. "Ah no," said the taxi-driver. "That is not 
the right word. On the contrary. He is an ace for Germany and a 
disaster for France." I often thought of those words and wondered 
how different the destiny of France might have been if the taxi- 
driver had been Minister for Foreign Affairs, instead of M, Bonnet. 


(When Bonnet went to London to hold conversations with the 
British Government, Randolph Churchill stood on the street corner, 
and when his car passed, shouted at the top of his lungs: "Courage, 
Monsieur Bonnet, courage!") 

John and Knickerbocker left for Prague the next morning and I 
followed a day later. The speech had inflamed the Chechoslovakian 
Germans and rioting had broken out all over Sudeten territory. The 
Czechs had declared martial law, and once again called up their 
reservists. I arrived in Prague to find the capital chilled by an air 
of menace, with the centuries-old buildings looking sad and grey 
beneath an overcast sky. Everywhere there were signs of feverish 
activity; workmen were digging aerial shelters in the park; women 
queueing up outside the shops to lay in stores of food; children being 
fitted with gas-masks. Thousands of civilian recruits with suit-cases 
and bundles were streaming into the barracks, and all day long 
troop trains pulled slowly out of the station. Although there was 
an emergency censorship on the Press, extras appeared every few 
hours and were immediately sold out. The cafes were crowded with 
people in anxious speculation, and every now and then you overheard 
a grim snatch of conversation. "To-night. Do you think the bomb- 
ers will come to-night?" 

Yet, in spite of this hourly uncertainty, life went on in its normal 
swing. That was what always struck one most in a crisis; the com- 
monplace things that people did and said. Men having their hair 
cut, women arguing with the grocer, children going to the cinema. 
Even the porter in the Hotel Ambassador greeted me with a polite, 
matter-of-fact smile, and said, "Fm glad to see you back" as though 
I'd come for a holiday! 

The hotel was already full of press correspondents, photographers 
and broadcasters. The telephones were ringing just as they had rung 
in Nuremberg, Paris, Berlin and London, ready to relay the latest 
news from Prague. 

I ran into Ed Beattie of the United Press, who had arrived that 
morning, and he told me that Knickerbocker and John Whitaker 
had gone into the Sudeten areas and were making their headquarters 
at Carlsbad. All sorts of reports were coming in about the fighting. 
The Germans were declaring that it had turned into a bloody civil 


war and the Czechs were denying it. Ed and I decided to drive 
through the territory and find out for ourselves. 

We hired a car and left the next morning. A few miles outside 
Prague we passed three school children cycling down a dusty road, 
their pigtails flying in the breeze, with long grey cylindrical gas- 
masks slung carelessly over their handle-bars. A little farther on the 
Czech lines of defence started neat rows of pill-boxes, camouflaged 
to look like haystacks, that stretched for miles across the fields. They 
were guarded by Czech soldiers with fixed bayonets and steel hel- 
mets, who seemed oddly out of place in the peaceful countryside; 
peasants in nearby fields went on working as though their presence 
was a matter of course. 

It wasn't difficult to tell when we had reached the Sudeten dis- 
tricts for the white posts along the road suddenly bloomed with 
swastikas vividly painted with red chalk. The telephone posts blazed 
with "Heil Hitlers'* and most of the sign-boards bearing Czech 
names had been mutilated and torn down. 

We stopped at Carlsbad, one of the most popular health resorts 
in Europe, to find the great hotels, usually crowded with foreigners, 
forlorn and deserted. We went into the Grand Hotel Pup for tea, 
where we were the only people in the restaurant. A dozen waiters 
hung about idly, and our voices sounded so loud in the stillness that 
we began talking in embarrassed whispers. When I went into the 
dressing-room, the maid, a middle-aged German woman, fussed over 
me as though she were starved for company. Suddenly she burst 
into tears and said the summer business had been ruined by the ter- 
rible talk of war. "I don't know what has happened," she cried. "A 
few months ago we were living here peacefully. Now people sud- 
denly seem to have gone crazy." She said there were only two guests 
in the entire hotel: American school teachers who had come to Carls- 
bad for a cure and stubbornly refused to move. 

Ed and I found, as we drove along, that apart from Nazi leaders 
and a few zealots, the ordinary people with whom we talked like 
simple people anywhere wanted to be left alone and in peace. 
Their tragedy was that they were pawns in a game too big and too 
complicated to understand. We had an example of this in the tiny 
village of Harbersbirk where one of the most violent riots had taken 


place, when 2,000 Sudeten Germans had stormed the doors of the 
Czech Police headquarters. Four Czech gendarmes had been killed 
and a flag fluttered from the rooftop at half-mast. Inside, the rooms 
were a debris of smashed furniture, and the floor stained with blood. 
On the wall, the glass frame over the picture of Thomas Masaryk, 
the founder of the Republic, bore a jagged crack. 

Outside, two Germans wandered forlornly round the courtyard. 
One was a young Social Democrat who talked in excited tones and 
said because he had supported the Czechs in the riot the Nazi Ger- 
mans accused him of being a traitor, and now he was afraid to go 
home. The other, an old man, a school teacher, stood quietly in the 
middle of the yard shaking his head over and over again. He ex- 
plained he was too old to take an interest in politics, but he couldn't 
understand why they had done it; surely, he said, pointing towards 
the smashed doors, that could not be the new German culture. 

Ed and I drove about for several hours; the outbreaks could 
scarcely be described (as the German press claimed) as "civil war." 
The quick action of the Czechs in declaring martial law had soon 
re-established order. Only a few districts still showed outward hos- 
tility. One of these was Eger, a town not far from the frontier. Here 
the Nazi machine was well organized and the community offered a 
grim picture of resistance. 

We drove into the main square, which ordinarily hummed with 
life, to find it deserted. The Germans had pulled down their blinds, 
closed their shops, and now they refused to leave their houses. The 
streets were empty save for a few Czech gendarmes and stray groups 
of soldiers who stood forlornly at the corners. There was no traffic, 
only an occasional army lorry that came rattling through the square 
headed for some unknown destination. The Czechs had posted no- 
tices appealing to the people to resume their normal duties, but no 
one had responded. It was a weird experience to wander through 
the silent streets and to know the town was not deserted at all 
that behind the drawn blinds the Germans sat waiting. We found 
one small restaurant open with no one in it except the proprietor, 
who lolled behind the counter in his shirt-sleeves. He stared at us 
suspiciously and when we asked for a cup of coffee, shook his head, 
"Business is suspended." Ed asked when he was opening up again 


and he thumped the counter angrily and replied, "When the Ger- 
man Army marches in.*' We enquired when that would be, and he 
said, "Any hour." He told us he had just heard over the radio that 
Henlein had issued a proclamation demanding the immediate sur- 
render of Sudeten territory to Germany. "Now the Reichswehr will 
come," he said (still with a sort of angry triumph), "and soon we 
will be liberated." 

Ed and I were startled by the news of the proclamation, and after 
a consultation decided to drive on to Asch, a frontier town which 
jutted deeply into the Reich and which had, for the past few weeks, 
served as Henlein's headquarters. Ed thought Henlein might be 
hiding there, and perhaps he would be lucky enough to get a story. 
We drove on, not knowing at any moment whether or not we might 
round a bend to find ourselves confronted by a long grey column of 
flashing steel. However, when we reached Asch we got a very differ- 
ent shock. Ed went into a hotel to ring up his Berlin office and came 
out with a startled expression. "If you thought for a hundred years, 
you'd never guess what's happened now! It's a real brain-twister!" 

He was right, for when he told me that Chamberlain was flying 
to Berchtesgaden I thought some overworked United Press corre- 
spondent's brain must have snapped. Ed was indignant that a British 
Prime Minister should fly halfway across Europe to court favour 
from Hitler, but gradually adopted a more hopeful view. "If only 
Hitler will scream at him, perhaps it will cure him of any illusion 
about dealing with Germany." 

We had dinner at the hotel, then started in search of the Sudeten 
Nazi headquarters. Most of Henlein's supporters had either fled into 
Germany or were in hiding, and when we reached the address given 
us by the porter, a small boy appeared and told us no one was there. 
He flashed a light in our faces and after a long and troubled hesita- 
tion finally gave us another address. An icy wind swept the streets, 
and it took us nearly an hour to find it; at last we stumbled down a 
dark alleyway and knocked on a door that was opened by two Nazi 
guards. They argued about us for a considerable time, but finally 
led us upstairs where we found eight men huddled round an oil 
burner listening to the radio news from Leipzig. 

The air was thick with tobacco smoke and they talked in low 


strained voices. The windows were pasted with black paper, and 
one of them explained that it was necessary to take every precaution 
lest the Czech police should find them and close the building. 

We asked if they knew Henlein's whereabouts and they stared 
at us suspiciously and shook their heads. Gradually they grew more 
talkative, and when we commented on the Anschluss proclamation, 
a tall man with a three-day beard shrugged his shoulders and said it 
was nothing new it was merely the expression of an idea which 
every Henleinist had had from the beginning. The group then plunged 
into an account of wrongs done them by the Czechs. One man said 
he was sure Mr. Chamberlain would come to an agreement with 
Hitler, and another added if he didn't the German Army would 
enter Sudeten territory anyway, and Asch, with its fortunate strate- 
gical position, would have the honour of being the first town incor- 
porated in the Reich. The others nodded and assured us it could be 
captured in less than twenty minutes. 

It was a strange scene; those grim, unshaven men living like out- 
laws, waiting hourly for the tramp of German feet to make them 
part and parcel of the third Reich. I have often wondered if any of 
them changed their opinions once their desire was granted. 

When Ed and I left, a man peered cautiously up and down the 
street to make sure no Czech policemen were hovering about, before 
letting us out. The following morning Ed took a train to Berlin and 
I drove back to Prague. 

During the next few days, as the wires flashed news of one dra- 
matic event after another, the hopes and fears of Prague swung back 
and forth like a compass needle in a fast-gathering storm. Chamber- 
lain to Berchtesgaden, Daladier and Bonnet to London. What did it 
all mean? The destiny of Czechoslovakia lay in the hands of a few 
men; the mass of people had no part in the moves played across the 
international chess-board; all they could do was to wonder and to 
wait and to hope. 

They waited uneasily, for they were becoming alarmed by articles 
in the leading English and French newspapers, which suddenly began 
to treat the Sudeten-Czech problem as though it were an isolated 


quarrel, arguing the pros and cons of the case on its face value and 
naively insisting that a solution must be / ound by a display of good- 
will on both sides. To the Czechs the problem was not a local one. 
The cession of Sudetenland didn't mean the convenient loss of an 
unruly population; it meant the loss of a fortified mountain frontier 
which would bring the borders of the Reich within thirty miles of 
Prague little more than an hour for the mechanized units of an 
invading army; it meant the death of the Republic and the disrup- 
tion of the country into a German corridor for the riches of the East. 

Czechoslovakia was originally created as a buffer State to prevent 
this very thing from happening. The reason that the Sudeten Ger- 
mans had been included in the Czech Republic was because they 
lived within the mountains which were Bohemia's natural lines of 
defence. But statesmen seemed to have lost sight of this fact and now 
the problem had become one "which must be localized." It was 
argued that the Sudeten Germans had many just grievances, and that 
(as The Times had pointed out on September 7th) the Czechs might 
be far better off, freed of a disloyal population. 

The Czechs countered these assertions stubbornly, but helplessly, 
insisting that Sudeten dissension had been deliberately provoked by 
German agents. They pointed to the fact that in 1933, after fourteen 
years of Czech administration, Henlein had made the following 
statement: "By identifying ourselves with the Czechoslovak State 
we assent to the fundamental idea of democracy, and assess the 
Czech people, whose destiny is inextricably bound up with our own, 
as a cultural nation, equal in quality to any nation in Central Europe." 

But 1933 was the y ear Hitler came to power, and from then on 
corruption set in. Henlein's party steadily increased, and with the 
Austrian anschluss, Czechoslovakia received a heavy blow. Nazi agents 
encouraged the wave of militarism that swept the German areas and 
the Sudetens, swelling with the pride of nationalism, became openly 
pro-Hitler. They held Nazi rallies, decorated their houses with swas- 
tikas and formed their own S.S. guard. The Reich press campaign 
against the Czechs continued to inflame opinion and Hitler's Nu- 
remberg speech fired it to open revolt. Only four months before Herr 
Ulrich had admitted the Czechs were "pretty good fellows"; now a 


state of siege existed, entirely brought about by the cunning and 
relentlessness of the German propaganda machine. 

The genius of Dr. Goebbels was not yet recognized as Germany's 
most dangerous weapon. To-day, after experience of Fifth Column 
activities in Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, it is not diffi- 
cult to believe Czech assertions that the Sudeten revolt was engi- 
neered by Nazi agents. But in the summer of 1938, many people 
pointed to Czech "stubbornness," arguing that had Dr. Benesch given 
proper concessions to his minorities the crisis might never have arisen. 
These arguments, pontificated so wisely, gravely and painstakingly, 
are ludicrous in the light of past events. To the Czechs, they seemed 
just as ludicrous three years ago. 

My Czech friend, Mr. B., the little professor who had sighed over 
the cherry blossoms and who believed so passionately that because 
democracy was right it was bound to triumph, came into the Hotel 
Ambassador on Sunday morning just after he had learned that a 
conference was being held in London to find a basis on which to 
open negotiations with the Germans. He was deeply distressed. "If 
they force us to surrender," he said with tears in his eyes, "it will 
be the end of us. Why can't they understand? The only trouble 
with Czechoslovakia is that it lies in the way!" 

On Sunday I decided to return to London. The fate of Czecho- 
slovakia was being decided by British and French statesmen and no 
further developments were likely to take place in Prague until 
Chamberlain had his second talk with Hitler, scheduled for the fol- 
lowing week. I had been away from England since July and wanted 
to make arrangements about my flat, and collect some warm clothes 
ill case I should find myself spending the winter in Central Europe 
"covering" a long war. I asked the porter to try and get me a ticket 
on the plane, but there were so many refugees leaving the country 
that there were no available seats. After making my plans to go by 
train, he suddenly rang back and said that a private plane was leaving 
for Paris at noon. It was making a landing at Nuremberg, but if I had 
no objection to stopping in Germany, the pilot would take me for 
the price of the ordinary fare. 


It was one of the strangest trips I have ever made. The plane was 
an eight-seater Potez; there were two French pilots and a navigator, 
and I was the only passenger. I thought it odd that in spite of the 
feverish exodus from Czechoslovakia there should be seven empty 
seats, but I put it down to the fact that the majority of refugees 
didn't care to enter German territory. 

The three Frenchmen sat in the cockpit and I sat alone in the 
empty cabin. It took only an hour and half to reach Nuremberg. 
When we landed I noticed that the pilots seemed nervous. They lit 
innumerable cigarettes while the German officials were inspecting 
our papers and made an exaggerated effort at conversation. We were 
detained for nearly half an hour and when at last we took off again 
and rose safely above the town, the navigator laughed excitedly, and 
said, "Thank God for that." He must have noticed my perplexity, 
for he quickly added, "It's always a relief to leave Germany, isn't it?" 

I realized that something unusual was taking place, but couldn't 
imagine what until we neared Strasbourg. Suddenly the plane 
swooped down to less than a thousand feet. The navigator came out 
of the cockpit, carefully shut the door, and took a seat beside me. He 
pointed out of the window, "Look. We are flying over the Siegfried 
Line." Below we could see miles of roadway, crowded with trucks 
and swarming with workmen. 

It suddenly dawned on me that I was in a reconnaissance plane. 
Obviously I had been taken aboard as a dupe passenger. The French- 
men had cleared their papers at Nuremberg, probably calculating 
there was less likelihood of being shot down if properly registered, 
than crossing the German frontier unauthorized. 

I realized the pilots were undoubtedly taking photographs and 
gazed out of the window fascinated. So this was the line that Hitler 
had described as "the most gigantic fortification of all time." Accord- 
ing to his own report, over half a million men were working on it; 
but it was by no means complete, although Goering had declared 
it "already invincible." We could see miles of steel and concrete 
block-houses still under construction. It was interesting to reflect 
that although Hitler had repeatedly wailed that he was ringed by 
enemies (France, Czechoslovakia and Poland) this was the first de- 
fensive line he thought necessary to build. 


Momentarily, I expected to hear the crack of anti-aircraft bullets, 
for we certainly must have been violating every international air 
code in flying so low; the pilots seemed to think it remarkable too, 
for when we finally reached Le Bourget aerodrome they jumped out, 
wreathed in smiles, slapped each other on the back, and shook hands 
with me warmly, saying what a pleasure it had been to have me as 
a passenger! I wished them luck; when I got into a taxi they stood 
on the steps and waved good-bye, as though we were old friends. 


Chapter IV 



When M. Bonnet, the French Foreign Minister, sent the Czecho- 
slovakian Government the proposals agreed upon in London, and 
two days later (on September 2ist), Dr. Benesch accepted them, 
announcing he had done so only "under unbelievable pressure." The 
Prague newspapers ran headlines "Absolutely Forsaken," and people 
wept hysterically in the streets. 

Besides the cession of the Sudeten districts to Germany, the pro- 
posals agreed that Czechoslovakia must be neutralized her alliances 
with Soviet Russia and France abandoned for a four-Power guar- 
antee by Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia. 

Now, from an international point of view, the second clause was 
even more of a German victory than the first. Not only had Hitler 
stripped Czechoslovakia of her fortified frontier, but had succeeded 
in reducing France, overnight, to a second-class Power. France's 
prestige and security were based on two factors: first, her system of 
alliances throughout the continent; and second, her Army. By sur- 
rendering her alliance with Czechoslovakia, the whole structure of 
her position had become untenable; the French dam carefully de- 
signed to hold German aggression in check had been allowed to 
break at Bohemia, and now German might was free to flow over 
the continent at will. 

The bouleversement was so immense, it was difficult to grasp. 
What had happened? The Press immediately seized upon Mr. Cham- 
berlain as the arch villain of the piece, claiming that the French had 
given away to British "pressure." This was furthered by M. Dala- 
dier and M. Bonnet, who justified the Proposals to the French cabi- 



net by explaining that "the British Government while in no way 
disputing the right of France to honour her treaty obligations to 
Czechoslovakia, had made it clear that they would not commit them- 
selves in any way to military support of France, unless her integrity 
was threatened." 

This was a feeble justification. When all was said and done, it was 
France and not Great Britain who had a treaty with Czechoslovakia; 
and the reason France had a treaty with Czechoslovakia was to pre- 
serve her own (France's) frontiers from being overrun at some 
later date. However much she might deplore the fact that England 
had not also pledged direct aid to Czechoslovakia, she knew that 
if she went to war with Germany, Great Britain could not stand 
idly by. 

France's diplomatic position was so strong that I found it hard 
to believe she had been merely a puppet in Mr. Chamberlain's hands. 
I remembered Charles Mendl's warning; but it wasn't until I got to 
London on Thursday that I heard a true account of the story. 

I dined with a Foreign Office official the night I arrived and 
learned from him that it was the French who had first caved in. 
On the evening of September i3th, M. Daladier, alarmed by the 
situation, communicated with Chamberlain and announced that 
France was in no position to fight, imploring the British Prime Min- 
ister to leave no stone unturned to find a way out. Thirty-six hours 
later Chamberlain made his first trip to Berchtesgaden. You can find 
a subdued reference to the conversation in M. Daladier's statement 
to the French Chamber on October 4th in which he said he got 
into touch with Mr. Chamberlain on the night of September i3th- 
i4th, and told him "how useful it would be if diplomatic demarches 
were superseded by personal contact between responsible men." 

My friend told me that Sir Robert Vansittart, in his role of Chief 
Diplomatic Adviser to the Government, had been urging the British 
Cabinet (as had Winston Churchill) to declare open support of 
Czechoslovakia. Whether or not he might have succeeded will never 
be known, for when Daladier and Bonnet flatly announced that 
France wouldn't fight, the ground had been cut from under his feet 
and from then on the cause was a lost one. 

Vansittart was not only staggered by the blow to French and 


British security (he told me a day or two later that he believed Eng- 
land and France would be at war with Germany within a year), but 
he was also staggered that France had perpetrated such a monstrous 
betrayal. He loved France deeply and the humiliation he felt was 
almost that of a father whose son turns out to be a cheat at cards. 

The story of the French debacle was never published for fear of 
rupturing the Franco-British alliance, and the international press con- 
tinued to attribute the entire responsibility to British "pressure." 

In England there was a flood of angry and humiliated reaction 
against the Government. But most of it was the reaction of people 
who still believed Hitler was bluffing and could have been defeated 
(diplomatically) if England and France had stood firm. At the end 
of the week, however, Mr. Chamberlain made a second trip to Ger- 
many only to find that the Fiihrer (with a technique now familiar) 
had greatly increased his demands, and added an ultimatum stating 
that the territory must be handed over in a week's time, starting 
October ist. 

The demands were so unreasonable that it seemed unlikely that 
even Chamberlain and Daladier could have the face to ask the Czechs 
to accept them. For the first time people began to wonder if Hitler 
were as opposed to war as they had thought. Mad though it seemed, 
perhaps the man was actually willing to take on Czechoslovakia, 
France and Great Britain! This was not exactly what the Opposition 
had bargained for. Suddenly, everybody began to ask: how could 
the French get to Czechoslovakia? How could the Russians get to 
Czechoslovakia? How could the English get to Czechoslovakia? 
Would anyone get to Czechoslovakia, and how big was the German 
Air Force? At last the fact was dawning that it was not policy that 
prevented aggression but armaments. 

The same day that Chamberlain talked to Hitler at Godesberg the 
Czechs mobilized and once again the crisis was in full swing. I dined 
that night with Roger Chetwode, his wife, Patricia (one of the pret- 
tiest girls in England), and Seymour Berry. In spite of attempts 
to make light-hearted conversation it was a grim evening. We went 
to Quaglino's where Roger ragged the Italian waiters and told them 
they had better hop it for Italy before it got too late. Mr. Quaglino 
insisted firmly there wouldn't be a war, "Of course, with a man like 


Hitler there is bound to be a little uncertainty. Nqw, if he were 
normal, like Mussolini . . ." 

Seymour Berry, who had been running The Daily Telegraph in 
his father's absence, argued bellicosely and said he would rather fight 
a war now than watch England die in her sleep. Roger laughed and 
said it was odd to think peace had become so lugubrious a thought; 
in the forceful phraseology of The Week Chamberlain had turned 
"all four cheeks" to Hitler. 

On Saturday workmen were feverishly digging shelters; on Sun- 
day, trucks with loud-speakers careened through the streets shouting 
to people to be fitted with gas-masks; on Monday Hitler made a 
speech in Berlin announcing that Czechoslovakia would either hand 
over the territory by October rst or else Germany would take it, 
and the Nazi press ran banner headlines, "War or Peace. Let Benesch 
choose now." 

Even Mrs. Sullivan was alarmed. She brought my breakfast, her 
hat perched indignantly over one eye, and said: "What do those 
dictators think they're up to, causing decent people all this worry? 
My old man says the trouble is, they're common. He says they're 
no better born than me!" 

War seemed a certainty. Roosevelt sent an eleventh-hour peace 
message; Chamberlain communicated with Mussolini; and Horace 
Wilson, Great Britain's Chief Economic Adviser, flew off to Berlin 
with a letter imploring Hitler to have patience. But it didn't look as 
though Hitler would. I rang up the Air Service and booked a ticket 
for Prague. The Dutch Service was the only one flying and I left 
Croydon at eight o'clock the following morning. 

The airline bus swept down the embankment and we passed the 
Houses of Parliament, half pink in the early morning light. I had a 
queer feeling in my stomach as I wondered whether I would find 
them still standing when I got back. Most of the passengers in the 
plane were bound for Holland and the others for Budapest. We 
stopped at Amsterdam and I went into the waiting-room to get a 
cup of coffee. The waiter, a small Dutchman with a shock of blond 
hair, commented on the situation and asked me where I was going. 
When I told him Prague, he threw his hands in the air. But he came 
back with a cup of coffee and a ham sandwich in a more reassuring 


mood. "Don't worry," he said, "there won't be a war. Hitler's already 
got what he wants. He may be crazy, but he can't be that crazy." 
"Perhaps he wants the whole of Czechoslovakia/' I suggested. "Per- 
haps," he said meditatively. Then with sudden fierceness, "My God, 
what a terrible curse these Germans are. Europe will never be happy 
until she gets rid of them. But who will do the job? That is the 
trouble. No one wants to take it on." He brought me an extra cup 
of coffee, explained it was "on the house" and wished me the best 
of luck. 

From Amsterdam the flight took about two hours. In the cabin of 
the plane, with the passengers casually reading their papers, and the 
stewardess hovering about like an anxious governess, the events on 
the earth below were strangely remote. It was only when we landed 
at the Prague aerodrome that the situation grew real again. The air- 
port manager, a young Czech in his thirties (who had stamped my 
tickets and put me aboard the French plane for Paris the week be- 
fore), came running out of the office, his face torn with dismay. 
"Oh, mademoiselle," he cried, "why have you returned to all this 
misery? You must get back into the plane at once. At once! You 
must not remain here. It is madness." He seemed genuinely distressed, 
but fortunately Major Lowell Riley, the American military attache, 
had come to the aerodrome to meet me and succeeded in calming 
him down. He finally went away, still muttering, "It is madness." 

If Lowell hadn't appeared I don't know how I would have got into 
town, for all cars had been requisitioned. As we drove along I saw 
a different Prague than I'd ever seen before. For weeks the Czechs 
had been faced with the grim choice of war or dismemberment and 
now the answer was war. All the machinery of the twentieth cen- 
tury was tuning up in preparation for the awful event. The streets 
were thick with uniforms. Tanks and armoured cars rumbled through 
the city. Women were blacking out their houses, shop-keepers past- 
ing their windows with strips of brown paper to keep the glass from 
shattering, and children walking along the pavements with gas- 
masks swinging from their shoulders. But it was the ordinary things 
that were the most surprising. As we drove up the V&clavske 
N&nesti (the "Piccadilly" of Prague) I saw two workmen standing 
inside one of the arcades, hanging a mirror on the wall. One stood 


back to tell the other when he'd got it at the right angle. With the 
hourly expectancy of German bombers this detail had a whimsical 
appeal. I wondered how long the mirror would remain intact. 

Lowell left me at the Hotel Ambassador and this time the placid 
desk-clerk looked surprised. "You shouldn't have returned," he said 
almost as forbiddingly as the aerodrome manager. I was careful 
to get a room on the first floor, then went in search of John Whitaker 
and Knickerbocker. I found them in Knick's room, sitting in the 
middle of the floor with enormous maps stretched out in front of 

"My God, how did you get here!" exclaimed Knick. I learned 
that all the French and English journalists had left the day before on 
what was presumably the last plane. The frontiers were closed, no 
trains were running, and even the telephone wires had been cut. 
Evidently, it was easier to get into Czechoslovakia than to get out. 
The only communication with the outside world was the telegraph, 
which was delayed as long as eighteen hours. 

We all three sat on the floor and began to study the map, trying 
to work out (from our point of view) the most likely vantage places. 
"I hope you've brought enough things to last a year," said Knick 
gloomily. "There's no way out. We'll be trapped in Central Europe 
for the duration." 

"Yes," agreed John, looking disdainfully at my shoes, "and I hope 
youVe got something with flatter heels than those, because we're 
going to have a hell of a lot of running to do!" 

That was, of course, if the war came off. There was always that 
"if." In spite of the grim preparations around us, we wondered. The 
Anglo-French proposals had presented Hitler with Central Europe; 
what was there to fight about? If the British and French Govern- 
ments had succeeded in persuading the Czechs to give in so far, why 
not a little further? Chamberlain was making a broadcast that night 
and we tried to tune in, but there was so much static we heard only a 
garbled report. We got the part about "how horrible, fantastic, in- 
credible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas- 
masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between 
people of whom we know nothing"; and we got the bit at the end 
which said: "As long as war has not begun, there is always hope that 


it may be prevented, and you know that I am going to work for 
peace until the last moment.'* 

"Yes," said John, "we know. But what we don't know is whether 
Hitler is going to work for peace, and that's what matters." 

The hotel was so depressing that night, we wandered through the 
Old Town trying to find a place to dine. All the street lamps had 
been painted a dull blue against air attacks, and in the weird light the 
people we passed looked like corpses fished out of the water. We 
tried half a dozen restaurants but found them all closed, and finally 
came back to the small night club connected with the hotel. No one 
was there except two dance hostesses with dyed hair and low-cut 
evening dresses, who sat in the corner getting drunk. But the band 
played bravely. All the old tunes: "If You Were the Only Girl in the 
World," and "On a Night Like This." For a while we forgot the 
war, but I had a nasty jolt when I got upstairs and found a huge gas- 
mask reclining on the pillow of my bed. Lowell Riley's card was 
attached and a note that said: "With the compliments of the Ameri- 
can Embassy." 

The next morning John Whitaker banged at my door at ten 
o'clock and told me to hurry and get dressed a rumour was cir- 
culating that the Germans were going to bomb the capital at two 
that afternoon, (Hitler had set 2 p.m. as the expiration of his final 
ultimatum.) John and Knick went to the War Office to get papers 
accrediting us to the Czech Army, and I managed, with the help of 
Lowell Riley, to find a car and chauffeur, and what was more impor- 
tant, some petrol. We all met at lunch and congratulated ourselves 
that nothing had been overlooked. "Except your shoes," said John 
fiercely. "For God's sake, go out and buy yourself a pair of flat- 
heeled shoes." I obeyed meekly, but discovered that all the shops 
were closed it was King Wenceslas day! 

Two o'clock came, three o'clock and four o'clock, and still nothing 
happened. We went to Knick's room, turned on the radio and tried 
to get a London station. The dial swung across the yellow board, 
through Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Bucharest, giving international 
reports in a dozen languages until finally, through a wave of static, 
came the sound of an English voice. The air attack was off; Mr. 
Chamberlain was going to Munich. 


We knew then the grim comedy was ended. The result of the 
Conference, which finished at 2.30 in the morning, didn't appear in 
the Prague papers and wasn't communicated to the Czech people 
until the following afternoon, when Benesch broadcast to the nation. 
The huge square in front of the hotel (the Vfclavske Ndmesti) was 
strung with loudspeakers and soon after lunch people began to as- 
semble. Most of the foreign journalists gathered in Knick's room, 
overlooking the square, and Maurice Hindus brought a Czech girl to 
translate the speech as it went along. 

The broadcast was a short one telling the nation of the final deci- 
sion to partition the country. Then the pathetic words: "Our State 
will not be the smallest. There are smaller States than we shall be." 
The Czech stenographer put down her pencil, buried her head in her 
hands and wept. As the President's last words died away the solemn 
music of the Czech National Anthem rolled over the square. The 
people below stood stiffly at attention as though they hadn't grasped 
the full significance of the words. Then the crowd broke and swept 
down the avenue, thousands of people shaking their fists and crying, 
"No, no, no! Down with Benesch! Let Czechoslovakia live! Long 
live Czechoslovakia! " Hundreds of Czech policemen surged into the 
square and swung a heavy cordon across the streets leading to Hrad- 
shin Palace where Benesch was staying, but the cries hung in the air 
like the cries of a wounded animal. They were terrible to hear. 

An hour or so later, John, Knick and I were in a car headed for 
the Czech- Austrian frontier. Knick had heard that this was to be the 
Reichswehr's first zone of occupation, scheduled for any time after 
midnight. "The second time in seven months," he said unhappily, 
"that I've had to watch the German Army invade a sovereign State 
without a shot being fired." 

It was a grim thought and an even grimmer drive. The country- 
side was still blacked out and our blue headlamps threw an eerie 
pattern against the ground. Our chauffeur (a White Russian emigre) 
had a difficult time as many of the bridges were mined and the 
roads blocked with farm wagons and machinery, hastily dragged out 
at the last moment. The wind had begun to rise and soon it started 


to rain, which made the going even harder. About forty miles from 
Prague we rounded a bend to see a long column of soldiers coming 
towards us the Czech Army in retreat. They were marching in 
silence; the only noise was the sound of wind and rain, the roll of 
the gun-wheels and the slosh of boots in the mud. In that awful quiet 
you could feel the penetrating bitterness of the defeat. 

In the villages it was the same. The squares were crowded with 
people standing forlornly in the rain as though they couldn't bear 
to go home for fear of being alone. And when we stopped for dinner 
at a town called Tabor we found the restaurant filled with people 
sitting quietly at their tables drinking beer and cups of coffee, but 
not talking, just staring into space. 

It was nearly eleven o'clock when we reached Budweiser, the last 
big Czech town before the Sudeten frontier. We went to the police 
station to try and find out the exact route of the German Army. It 
was an awkward question, but the Czech police inspector listened 
politely as though it were the most natural query in the world, pulled 
out a map from his desk, and began to study it. He was an unusual 
type for a police officer, with an intellectual brow and a delicate, 
sensitive face. He spoke English and told us that he had once been 
to America. "A country for which I have great admiration." 

"Not more than we have for your country," replied John. He 
made no comment, but said "Thank you" in a quiet voice. 

After a good deal of consideration, he advised us to go to a town 
called Oberplan, about seven or eight miles from the Austrian frontier. 
"But you'll never find it at night. The roads are difficult and half 
of them are blocked. I'll send an officer with you." 

We begged him not to go to such trouble, but he insisted, and 
called a young policeman into the room. The boy couldn't have been 
over twenty, with blond hair and babyish pink cheeks. The inspector 
spoke to him in Czech and the boy pointed to his uniform. Then he 
disappeared and came back a moment later in a long black coat. He 
laughed and said something we couldn't understand and the inspector 
explained he thought it better not to cross into Sudeten territory 
without concealing his uniform. 

- Once again we started off and a few miles outside Budweiser came 
to a Czech patrol of thirty or forty men standing by the side of the 


road. It was ten minutes past twelve and we learned they had with- 
drawn from Sudeten territory on the dot of midnight and for the 
last time. Our chaufF eur and the policeman talked to them in Czech 
while they inspected our papers, then they handed them back, 
saluted, and a few moments later we crossed the new boundaries of 
the Third Reich. 

We hadn't driven far before we discovered that the Sudeten 
peasants, heavily armed with rifles and shotguns, had taken over the 
Czech patrols. The atmosphere was electric and hostile; twice men 
jumped out of the bushes swinging lanterns and shouting to us to 
stop. They were gruff and sullen, but after inspecting our papers 
finally let us go. 

Near Oberplan, however, we weren't so lucky. This time a dozen 
men sprang from the roadside, surrounded the car and thrust their 
rifles through the windows. They were evidently in a high state of 
excitement for they shouted for help, as though we were a group of 
desperados, and more men came running down the road. One of 
them fired his rifle in the air (a signal of danger) and soon a crowd 
of over fifty had gathered. They were a group of the toughest, 
meanest-looking peasants I have ever seen. Most of them wore large 
swastika armbands and had home-made Nazi badges pinned on their 
coats. One of them, a man in a leather jacket, boots and breeches 
(obviously the local Fiihrer), ordered us to produce identification 
papers. He snatched them out of our hands and walked up to the 
front of the car to inspect them under the headlamps. But they failed 
to interest him for long, for he suddenly caught sight of our registra- 
tion plates. He strode back, thrust his head through the window, and 
said triumphantly: "Acb so! Sie koiwnen aus Prag!" ("So! you have 
come from Prague!") 

Knick tried to explain that we were newspaper reporters on our 
way to watch the German Army cross the frontier, but it made no 
impression. He just stood glaring at us repeating over and over: "Ach 
so! Sie kormnen aus Prag! Aus Prag!" 

In an ugly voice he announced that we would have to come to the 
village courthouse to be searched. Several men j 
board, their rifles still pointing into the car, and 
to drive slowly. The others walked along on eiralrafte. It 


uncomfortable drive, for the Germans were keyed up to such a pitch 
of excitement that a false move by any of us might have led to a 
nasty accident. 

When we reached the village square, about a mile and a half away, 
we found it thronged with men, women, children, all dressed up in 
their best clothes; some were shouting and waving swastikas, others 
were drinking beer, laughing and dancing. It was an extraordinary 
spectacle at one o'clock in the morning; they were waiting to be 
among the first to greet the German Army. 

When our car stopped the local Fiihrer shouted at the crowd to 
make a passage way and we were led through the mob, with people 
staring stupidly at us, to the courthouse on the other side of the 
square. We were taken upstairs to a small room with a table and half 
a dozen chairs probably the Town Council's meeting-place and 
with three or four henchmen still pointing their rifles at us. The local 
Fiihrer began to search us for firearms. He carefully went through 
my bag and emptied the contents of John's and Knick's pockets on 
the table, but when he got to the chauffeur's identification papers, he 
was stumped, for he stared hard, then asked what nationality he was. 
"Russian," the man replied. "He's a Bolshevik!" exclaimed one of the 
henchmen excitedly. After a long explanation, the chauffeur finally 
established the fact that he was a White Russian and the excitement 
died. Then the leader turned to the Czech, who was still bundled 
up in his long coat, and ordered him to take it off. It was an awful 
moment but there was nothing for him to do but obey, and a moment 
later he stood there in full policeman's regalia. There was an amazed 
silence. Then the Fiihrer shouted, "A Czech! We've caught a Czech!" 

He walked up to him swinging a rubber truncheon and cracked 
it down on the table. "Do you know you are now in the Third Reich? 
That we no longer tolerate Czechs prowling around our villages?" 
He plunged his hand into the policeman's pocket, yanked out a pair 
of gloves, a key-ring and a wallet, and threw them on the table. 
Then he put his hand in the other pocket and pulled out a revolver 
and of all things a swastika armband! 

The Czech had probably taken it from a Henleinist during one 
of the recent riots, and the mixture of triumph, hatred and revenge 
on the German's face was frightening to watch. "So you have 
brought a revolver, to shoot down innocent German men and women. 


That is bad enough. But a swastika! A Czech with a swastika!" 
("Bin Tscheche mit HakenkreuzJ") His voice trembled with rage. 
He walked around the room, every now and then punctuating his 
sentences by cracking the truncheon down on the table. "Em 
Tscheche mit Hakenkreuz!" Then he turned to his men, "Take him 
outside. We'll show him the way we deal with Czechs." 

The boy's face turned white. The Germans grabbed his arms and 
dragged him out of the room. I was very nearly ill. "The dirty 
swine!" muttered John under his breath. "They'll probably beat him 
to death." "It won't be the first time," said Knick grimly. I was still 
wondering whether I was going to be sick. "But can't we do some- 
thing!" I gasped. "We can't just sit here." 

It was a foolish remark, for sit there was exactly what we had to 
do. The local Fiihrer had worked himself into such a fit of anger 
that he shouted for a man with a sub-machine gun and told him to 
keep us under guard. "If they move," he said, "shoot them." Then 
he told us we would have to stay there until the Gestapo agent 
arrived from the Reich, strolled out and locked the door. 

Our guard was a stupid-looking peasant who had never held a 
machine-gun before. He clung to it grimly, his eyes fixed on us as 
though at any moment we were going to make a dash for liberty. 
We were so afraid that a move would upset him we scarcely dared 
to turn our heads. Outside, we could hear the noise of the crowd: 
every now and then the voices rose to a wild cry: "Sie kommen 
gleich!" ("They're coming!") but it was always a false alarm. 

We wondered how long it would be before the Gestapo agent 
arrived, and what would happen when he did. Knickerbocker had 
been expelled from Germany and was the object of frequent attacks 
by the Nazi Press. "Don't worry," I said. "They'll be afraid of 
Americans." "Oh yeah?" replied Knick. "Just the way they're afraid 
of England and France." 

However, we were lucky. The agent arrived at five o'clock in 
the morning a typical S.S. man in black uniform: severe, unsmiling, 
overcorrect. When he came in the room, he bowed, clicked his heels 
and told us he would examine our papers immediately. Knicker- 
bocker was evidently not on his black list and the words 'foreign 
journalists 9 seemed to make a deep impression. A few minutes later 
he came back apologizing for the inconvenience we had been put 


to and ordered our release. But when we asked him about the Czech 
policeman, his mouth tightened. "That is a different matter. We will 
have to deal with his case separately." 

By this time we were so exhausted we went to the small inn across 
the square and slept until eight o'clock. The crowd had thinned out 
but there must have been over a hundred people (slightly bedraggled 
now) still waiting. 

In the morning, when we were ready to start again for the frontier, 
our chauffeur announced we had run out of petrol. The garage 
wouldn't give him any without a special permit, so Knick and I went 
back to the courthouse. We found the S.S. man sitting at a desk, 
already hard at work, poring over the local administration books. 
Although he'd not been to bed, he was wasting no time in establish- 
ing the authority of Nazi Germany; when Knick remarked that he 
ought to get some sleep, he replied unsmilingly: "Soldiers of the 
Reich only rest when their work is done" exactly like a Hollywood 

As we were leaving his office, a Sudeten farmer with a degenerate 
face pushed his way excitedly into the room. He said two Com- 
munists were hiding down the road and he wanted permission to 
arrest them and take them to jail. "Are you sure they're Com- 
munists?" asked the S.S. man. "Oh yes," replied the farmer. "I heard 
them speak against the Ftihrer." The S.S. man nodded and the 
Sudeten hurried off. 

We got the authorization for petrol, but in the end we never saw 
the German Army cross the frontier. We drove to the barrier posts 
near Hohenfurt and even there found village people, with flowers 
and wreaths, waiting to welcome the troops. We hung about for 
several hours, but at noon there was still no sign of the long grey 
columns. Knick and John had afternoon editions to catch and there 
were no communications with the outside world apart from those in 
the capital. We didn't dare cross into Germany for fear of not being 
allowed back again and finally decided the only thing to do was 
return to Prague and write the story we already had. 

We were still badly shaken by the fate of our Czech policeman 
and stopped at Budweiser to tell the Inspector what had happened. 
He received the news with great distress. "He will never return. 
I know those Germans. They will kill him." We told him we would 


do everything in our power to get him out, and when we reached 
Prague made representations through the American Embassy as well 
as telegraphing to Berlin ourselves. Several weeks after we had left 
Czechoslovakia, we heard that, although badly beaten, he was still 
alive and had finally been released. 

The drive back to Prague was long and uncomfortable. The rain 
had made the roads even worse than the day before and as we jogged 
along we tried to write the "leads" to our stories. I remember Knick's 
opening sentence, for it was only three words long: "Evil has won." 

In Prague, the Munich anticlimax was tragic. The foreign em- 
bassies were deluged with people begging for passports to flee the 
country, and even the journalists had pathetic requests for help. John 
and I were sitting at the cafe in front of the hotel when an old man 
overheard us speaking English and came up to the table. He was a 
German writer who had spent two years in a concentration camp, 
and had only been released in 1936 when he had come to Prague. 
"You must help me to get away," he said. "I couldn't stand it again. 
Fm too old." There was nothing we could do and John tried to 
reassure him. "But you're all right in Prague." The man shook his 
head. "They will be here soon. Everybody knows that." 

It was the awful sense of doom that wrung our hearts. When the 
Czechs had thought they were going to fight, their spirits were high, 
but now that they were pulling the strips of brown paper off their 
windows, lighting the street lamps and throwing away their gas- 
masks, hope was gone. The Czech professor (the one who had sighed 
over the cherry blossoms the May before and who is now in a con- 
centration camp) came to the hotel to see me. Already he looked 
older and his voice was tired. "I hear they are celebrating in London 
and Paris. I hear Mr. Chamberlain has become a hero. We should 
celebrate too, for in Prague the time is short. In six months half of 
us will be in concentration camps." 

I was so upset by what I had seen, my one idea was to leave as 
quickly as possible, but I stayed long enough to hear Hitler's speech 
in Carlsbad the following Tuesday. I made the trip with Ralph Mur- 
ray of the British Broadcasting Corporation. It was a grey rainy day 
and when we arrived, about eleven o'clock in the morning, we found 


the town already overflowing with German troops and S.S. men. 
Hundreds of workmen were erecting triumphal arches across the 
streets huge wreaths with flowers entwined which spelt the words 
"Wir danken wiser en Fuhrer" (We thank our Leader). But the most 
feverish activity was on the part of the Propaganda Section. Since 
early morning, armoured cars carrying microphones, loud-speakers, 
cameras, recording machines, banners, propaganda leaflets, and 
swastikas had been pouring into the town. The Schmuckplatz^ the 
large square where Hitler was scheduled to speak, was being strung 
with loud-speakers and every now and then orders were shouted to 
the crowd that had begun to assemble. The propaganda boys were 
stealing the limelight, which is exactly as it should have been, for 
if this wasn't Dr. Goebbels' victory, what was? 

I was wandering along the crowded streets when I ran into 
Dr. Boehmer, head of the German Foreign Press: he told me that 
the correspondents from Berlin had a place on the corner of the 
Schmuckplatz, and I went in search of them. After pushing my way 
through a long line of S.S. men I finally caught sight of Euan Butler 
and Ed Beattie. They were standing in the rain, waiting for the great 
event, so depressed they could scarcely summon a smile. They had 
been covering the story from the Berlin angle, and had already ac- 
companied the German Army on three zones of occupation. 

Major Hinzinger, a dapper figure in boots and breeches, was in 
charge of the group and hovered about making gay remarks. I 
remember my surprise when Ed Beattie looked at his watch, turned 
to the major, and said: "How long is that pop-eyed bastard going 
to keep us waiting?" But the major accepted it as though it were 
all part of the comical way in which Americans expressed them- 
selves. "You mean the Fuhrer?" he asked brightly. "Oh, I don't think 
he'll keep us in suspense much longer." 

At a quarter to two the loud-speakers suddenly boomed: "The 
Fuhrer is in Carlsbad." The crowd broke into a roar of cheering and 
kept it up until, fifteen minutes later, the great man entered the 
square, standing as usual in the front seat of a long black car with his 
hand outstretched in the Nazi salute. There was a wild frenzy of 
"Sieg Heir when he appeared on the balcony of the Municipal 


He wore a long grey military coat that made him look smaller 
than usual. His speech was short, and had, I thought, an impatient 
ring; I remembered what Unity had said about his getting bored and 
wondered if now that the world was quieting down again he had 
suddenly lost interest. The only time his voice rose with conviction 
was when he hit the microphone and said: "That I would be stand- 
ing here one day, I knew." 

When it was over, Major Hinzinger came up still smiling brightly, 
and I asked him how he felt after his victory over the Czechs. "I 
suppose I shouldn't say it," he replied, "but, after all, I am a soldier. 
And I can't help feeling just a little disappointed that we weren't 
allowed to have a crack at them!" 

Geoffrey Cox of the Daily Express drove back to Prague with 
Ralph and myself. Two miles outside Carlsbad a small group of 
Czech soldiers had drawn up alongside the road where the new 
frontier began. They stopped our car and one of them asked us, 
curiously, what the celebration was like. He listened quietly, then 
remarked in German, "I suppose you'll be leaving Czechoslovakia 
soon. Are you going to France?" Geoffrey nodded and the soldier 
said: "When you get there, you can tell them for us that one day 
they will look across that Maginot line of theirs and ask: 'Where 
are those two million Czechs?' And we won't exist. They will fight 

We drove the rest of the way to Prague in silence. 

Sidelight for America: a few days after the Munich agreement, 
Jan Masaryk, the Czech minister in London and the son of Thomas 
Masaryk, the founder of Czechoslovakia, was walking through Hyde 
Park when Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador, drove past 
him. The car stopped and Kennedy called out: 

"Hi! there, Jan. Want a lift?" 

Jan got into the car and Kennedy slapped him on the back* 

"Oh, boy! Isn't it wonderful!" 

"What is?" asked Jan. 

"Munich, of course. Now I can get to Palm Beach, after all!" 


Chapter V 



man in tails whirl round the Ritz ball-room so fast they looked like 
a red and black top. I was at a dinner-party, sitting next to Alfred 
Duff Cooper, who, two weeks before, had resigned from the British 
Cabinet. Earlier in the evening he had said to me: "It was 'peace 
with honour' that I couldn't stomach. If he'd come back from 
Munich saying, 'peace with terrible, unmitigated, unparalleled dis- 
honour,' perhaps I would have stayed. But peace with honour!" 

The girl in the scarlet taffeta dress wasn't bothering herself about 
honour or dishonour and neither were the other couples on the dance 
floor, from the look of them. Peace was the important thing. Once 
more the music was playing and Mr. Chamberlain was the hero of 
the day. Business firms advertised their gratitude in the newspapers; 
shops displayed Chamberlain dolls and sugar umbrellas; and in Scan- 
dinavia there was a movement to present the British leader with a 
trout stream. Only a few people like Duff Cooper shook sad and 
sceptical heads over "peace in our time" and stared gloomily into the 
future. When the girl in the scarlet taffeta dress spun past us, Duff 
said: "I wonder where that couple will be a year from to-day!" 

But sceptical people, like Duff, were soon written off as jitterbugs 
and praise for Neville Chamberlain continued unabated. It was dur- 
ing this period of adulation in fact, a few nights after the evening 
at the Ritz that I was invited to dinner to meet him. 

The dinner was given by his sister-in-law, Lady Chamberlain, 
widow of the late Sir Austen Chamberlain, former Foreign-Minister 
and half-brother of Neville. I can see the dining-room now with its 
yellow curtains and its huge bowls of yellow flowers. There were 



only ten people at the table: the Prime Minister and Mrs. Chamber- 
lain, Lady Birkenhead, Prince and Princess Ruspoli from Rome, the 
Duke of Alba (Franco's representative), Lady Chamberlain's daugh- 
ter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Terence Maxwell, and myself. 

The Prime Minister had a more vigorous appearance than his 
photographs indicated, and I was surprised (as I had been by Hitler) 
to find that he was an animated conversationalist with a quick sense 
of humour. I sat several places away from him at dinner, but when 
we went into the drawing-room Lady Chamberlain told him that 
I had just returned from Czechoslovakia and led us to a sofa in the 
corner. I shall never forget Chamberlain's opening remark: "Tell 
me," he said, smiling. "Did you find that the Czechs had any bitter 
feeling towards the English?" 

I was so astonished for a moment I couldn't reply. Then I de- 
scribed some of the things I had seen and heard and he listened with 
grave attention. "From what I saw, the Czechs behaved with extraor- 
dinary self-control," I added. "All the stories of Czechs 'persecuting' 
Germans were completely unfounded manufactured by German 

Mr. Chamberlain nodded sympathetically. "I know. No accusa- 
tion was too wild for them. Even while we were in conference at 
Godesberg, Ribbentrop kept coming into the room with announce- 
ments of Czech atrocities, reading them out in a sensational manner. 
Of course, it was ridiculous. We knew they were inventions. We had 
only to check up with our own people in Prague to learn the truth. 
But that's the trouble with the Germans. They have no sensibilities. 
They never realize the impression they are making." 

"What did you think of Ribbentrop?" I asked. 

"A terrible fellow." 

"And Hitler?" 

"Not very pleasant, either. I thought he had an extraordinary face 
almost sinister. And a temper that's quite unmanageable. Several 
times at Godesberg he got so excited I was able to carry on a con- 
versation only with extreme difficulty. In fact, several times I had 
to tell Herr Schmidt (the interpreter) to say that we would get 
nowhere by such a demonstration, and ask him to keep to the subject, 
A most difficult fellow. It's hard to understand the fascination he 


has for the German people. But I think he's beginning to lose his 

"Hitler?" I said, surprised. 

"Yes. When I arrived in Germany I noticed there was a good deal 
more cheering for Goering than for Hitler. I think Goering may 
become the real power in the country." 

I told Mr. Chamberlain the lack of boisterousness didn't strike me 
as odd; Goering was the Balbo of the country the popular flesh- 
and-blood idol who used filthy words and drew good-natured shouts 
from the crowds of "Good old Hermann"; but Hitler was almost 
sacred. People didn't shout as they did for Goering; often they wept. 

"Perhaps," replied Mr. Chamberlain. "But I'm not sure. I don't 
think the German people liked being led to the brink of war. I was 
astonished by the reception I got and already I've had hundreds of 
letters from Germany thanking me for the part I played. When I 
arrived at Munich, even the S.S. men cheered me! They were the 
last people I should have expected to welcome peace." 

"I can understand the Germans cheering better than I can the 
French," I replied. "After all, the Germans got peace and everything 
they wanted as well. But in France they got peace only at the price 
of an appalling surrender. What they found to cheer about I can't 
imagine. The French position seems to me the worst of all." 

I made the remark as a deliberate challenge, and was completely 
taken aback by Chamberlain's reply. He nodded his head in agree- 
ment and said, "Unless the French find some new and vigorous 
leaders at once, they are finished as a first-class Power." 

He then went on to relate the same story that the Foreign Office 
official had told me; how the French had communicated with the 
British Government at the last moment and flatly renounced their 
pledges. "If we had known this several months before we might have 
been able to help the Czechs get a far more reasonable settlement," 
said Mr. Chamberlain, "but the French assured us, both privately and 
publicly, that they were determined to honour their treaty obliga- 
tions 'until the eleventh hour. I prophesy that unless the French pull 
themselves together at once they will not survive as a democracy 
much longer. If the Czechs are bitter at anyone, they should be bitter 
at the French." 


"Everyone knows," I said inelegantly, "that Mr. Bonnet is the 
biggest crook in Europe." 

Mr. Chamberlain laughed. "He doesn't inspire much confidence." 

"Do you think Hitler is contemptuous of the French?" 

"I don't know, but I think he suspects them of great weakness." 
Then he said suddenly, "What a curious man he is! In judging him, 
one must revise all one's ordinary ideas and try to remember what 
a strange life he has led, for he's quite different from anyone else. 
What I found so difficult apart from his fits of temper and his habit 
of wandering off the subject was the fact that he was so irrational. 
For example, at Godesberg he told me in one breath that the Czech 
problem was so vital it couldn't wait a day; and in another breath, 
suggested my taking a trip to Berchtesgaden in order to see his moun- 
tain retreat. I told him if the problem was so vital I didn't see how 
he could afford to waste time taking me sight-seeing, but he didn't 
seem to think it odd!" Mr. Chamberlain laughed, and added: "Some- 
one reported to me that Hitler was shocked when he was told I 
enjoyed shooting and remarked that it was a cruel sport. Now, fancy 
anyone with Hitler's record objecting to shooting birds!" 

Mr. Chamberlain looked amused. Then his smile disappeared and 
he asked curiously: "What was it like in Prague when you heard 
the result of Munich?" 

I told him about the crowds sweeping down the main square, and 
the drive through the black and rain-swept villages; and, finally, of 
the hours we had spent under the supervision of the German with 
the machine-gun. I told him how we had hung over the radio until 
three o'clock on the night of the Munich Conference, waiting for the 
final report, and asked him why it had taken so long. 

"German inefficiency," he replied with a smile. "I had always been 
led to believe that the Germans were a thoroughly efficient people, 
but when we arrived at Munich we found that nothing was pre- 
pared. There were no interpreters, no stenographers, no pencils, not 
even any paper. It took hours to get the thing arranged. But the 
climax came at two-thirty in the morning, when the document was 
finally ready for signature, and Hitler jumped up from the table, 
walked over to the desk, plunged his pen in the inkwell to find there 
wasn't even any ink! Now even in London we would have had ink!" 


At this point the conversation came to a close, for Mrs. Chamber- 
lain came up and told the Prime Minister it was time for him to go 
to bed. It was the only conversation I ever had with Chamberlain; 
when I went home I wrote it down as I have given it here. 

Chamberlain had surprised me by his outspokenness and impressed 
me as a man of sincerity. The bitter criticisms levelled at him, depict- 
ing him as a villain, and accusing him of totalitarian sympathies, were 
grossly unfair. He believed in Democracy and the British Empire 
with the same fervour as Winston Churchill; but what he didn't 
believe in with the same fervour as Winston Churchill was the 
wickedness of Germany. 

Although he neither approved of the Nazis nor liked Hitler, there 
is little doubt that he was deeply impressed by the German people's 
desire for peace. The fact that "even the S.S. men" cheered him had 
left a deep mark. He didn't seem to grasp the fact that in totalitarian 
states public opinion is manufactured and fashioned overnight to suit 
the purpose of the moment. His remark about Hitler's declining 
power indicated to me a dangerous lack of understanding. 

But on looking back, even more curious were his comments on 
France. His prophecy has been borne out, but what is difficult to 
understand is why (and how I wish I had asked this question), if he 
believed France's position to be so precarious, he was not more 
alarmed for the future of her ally, Great Britain. 

I think myself the answer was that Chamberlain was so strongly 
convinced that another war would mean the end of civilization (a 
phrase you heard repeatedly was: "In war there are no winners") he 
couldn't believe that even Hitler, "if treated justly," would plunge 
Europe into such a catastrophic maelstrom. He seemed to regard 
Hitler as a curious, rather unbalanced sort of creature who could be 
managed by "clever handling." This led him to under-estimate the 
driving force and ambition he was up against, for he was a man who 
lacked the human understanding of Churchill; he couldn't visualise 
the world as "a tired horse," always flogged "a bit further down the 
road" by some ambitious new master. 

There is no doubt that he sincerely believed the promises Hitler 
gave him "I have no more territorial demands in Europe"; and that 
he meant the words he himself had spoken on September ijth when 


he said "... if I were convinced that any nation had made up its 
mind to dominate the world by fear of its force, I should feel that 
it must be resisted." The tragedy lay in the fact that he couldn't be 
convinced. He will go down in history as a man who wa$ deceived, 
but whether or not he had a right to be deceived in the face of the 
overwhelming evidence with which he was confronted, is a matter 
for argument. At any rate, the mass of people in Europe shared his 
complacency. Although the British Government ordered an increase 
of armaments (just in case . . .) everybody drifted back to nor- 
malcy; it was exactly like the cartoon printed in Punch of John Bull 
settling down comfortably in a chair while "WAR SCARE" flew out 
of the window with the caption: "Thank God, that's gone." 

Tom Mitford, Unity's brother, came back from Germany, where 
he had spent a day with Hitler, and told me that the latter had re- 
ferred to Chamberlain as a "dear old man." Hitler appeared to have 
taken a liking to him and remarked to Tom that he was upset be- 
cause "the old man" had to make three such long trips! He said 
on the second occasion he (Hitler) had planned to go to London 
instead, and even ordered his plane, but his advisers had told him it 
was out of the question as the trip would have come under the cate- 
gory of a "state visit," and meant a three-day stay. "Anyway," 
Hitler added, "it's probably just as well. I know the English. They 
would have met me at Croydon with a dozen bishops!" 

Tom said that although he and Unity had been the only people in 
the room, when Hitler talked about the Czechs, his voice rose to a 
shout as though he were addressing an enormous audience. Then his 
mood changed and he was calm again. "I can't understand any Eng- 
lishman being willing to shed his blood for a single Czech. But if 
England had gone to war with us, of one thing I am certain: not a 
single British plane would have succeeded in flying over Germany!" 
(Tom never gathered what he meant by this remark and thought 
perhaps he was referring to a "secret weapon"; if so, it hasn't been a 
great success!) 

Hitler asked why the English had dug trenches all over Hyde 
Park, and when Tom replied they were air-raid shelters, he threw 
back his head and laughed loudly. "So that's what they were! Here 
in Germany we couldn't imagine! We thought the English were 


under the impression we were going to land troops, and were actu- 
ally digging front-line trenches." (I remember remarking to Tom: 
"What an idea! He must be crazy to think English people are such 

Tom shared his sister's conviction that Hitler, in spite of his ambi- 
tions on the continent, sincerely desired friendship with England and 
was eager to reorganize the world on an Anglo-German basis. This 
was not an uncommon view in London, though on what evidence it 
was based was difficult to understand. Hitler soon changed his mind 
about Mr. Chamberlain being "a dear old man," for scarcely three 
weeks after Munich the German press began to attack the British 
increase of armaments and to label the peace-maker of Munich the 
war-monger of Europe. 

When I went to Berlin at Christmas time (on my way to Russia), 
I found a cold, unsmiling city almost as belligerent as when I had 
last seen it in the summer. In August the army had been mobilising 
and the avenues resounded to the roar of motor-cycles and the 
rumble of armoured cars; now the capital was buried beneath a 
blanket of deep snow and had a silent, almost melancholy air; there 
was scarcely any traffic on the icy streets and the great building 
projects dotted all over the capital and left unfinished through a 
scarcity of labour lay under the snow like giant corpses respectfully 
covered with sheets. 

But the atmosphere was as bellicose as last August. The first person 
I saw when I arrived was Dr. Karl Silex, whom I ran into in the 
Adlon Bar. I scarcely had a chance to say hello before he began, 
"So youVe come from London. Well, we've changed our opinion 
about Mr. Chamberlain, here in Germany. Instead of making peace 
he seems to be making arms. If the hypocrisy goes on our patience 
will come to an end." 

Then with a reasoning of which only Germans (in spite of their 
reputation for logic) are capable, he went on to prophesy that 1939 
would see further changes in the European map. "You can be sure 
of one thing," he said defiantly. "Germany's frontiers are not yet 
permanently drawn in either Eastern or South-Eastern Europe." 

I wrote this in an article for the Sunday Times, adding, thaf the 
only change I had noticed in the aggressive spirit of Nazi Gqpiany 


was in the man in the street. In August the average German had 
expressed a staunch faith in the leadership of the country and re- 
peated with almost childish faith that the Fiihrer would not lead the 
nation to war. Now they realized that peace had been kept only by 
the surrender of Chamberlain. The knowledge that Hitler had been 
willing to risk a war seemed to have made a deep impression, and 
on all sides one heard grave doubt as to the future. My waiter in the 
Adlon told me that the hotel was having a boom, for people felt the 
future so insecure that they no longer tried to save their money; 
on another occasion a taxi-driver asked me how long I thought the 
peace would last, adding with a sigh, "If only the country could have 
a little quiet." And when Jimmy Holburn's wife, Margaret, went into 
a shop the sales-girl rattled the box of the Winter Relief Fund and 
explained in a cynical, rather tired voice: "For guns." 

But this anxiety and weariness meant nothing, for ordinary people 
didn't count. The propaganda machine was churning up fresh hatred 
against the democracies and Nazi party leaders were already well 
converted. We had an example of the strange mixture of friendliness 
and hostility towards England running through the capital on Christ- 
mas night. Robert Byron had come to Berlin to spend a few days 
with his sister Lucy, who was married to Euan Butler, the Times 
correspondent, and on Christmas we dined together and later in the 
evening went to a night-club called "Der Goldener Hufeisen" ("The 
Golden Horse-shoe"). 

It was the most extraordinary night-club I have ever been to. The 
room was packed with people sitting at small tables drinking beer 
and in the centre of the room was a dance floor, around which was a 
dirt circus ring with three live ponies, which guests could ride for a 
mark. The band struck up, the riding-master cracked his whip, and 
the audience shrieked with delight as brave but inexperienced riders 
jogged painfully around the circle. The women riders cut the most 
comical figures, for their hats rolled off and their skirts went up 
above their knees. One of them had on a pair of bright pink knickers 
that made the onlookers howl with laughter. 

Robert Byron and his sister Lucy were expert riders, and as the 
evening wore on the temptation grew too strong for them to resist. 
Robert was wearing a dinner jacket and Lucy a trailing blue satin 


dress, so their offer to do a turn created a mild sensation. Lucy rode 
side-saddle, and when the riding master cracked his whip and the 
horses went round the ring at a wild gallop, she made a spectacular 
picture with her blonde hair shining in the light and her satin dress 
billowing into the air like a blue cloud. The riding-master was so 
delighted with the exhibition that he presented both of them with an 
elaborate diploma. Then the band stood up, raised their beer glasses, 
and toasted "The English Visitors"; the audience joined in with a 
burst of whistling and cheering. That is, everybody, except for two 
Storm Troopers at the next table. They were young men in their 
twenties, and one of them, with a swarthy complexion and dark, 
angry eyes, leaned over to Euan and said in an ugly voice: "So you 
come from England. We don't like the English. All English people 
are hypocrites." 

"And we don't like being interrupted!" retorted Euan. 

This had little effect, for the man went on: "We read that your 
Mr. Chamberlain isn't so peaceful as he tried to make us think. He's 
busy making arms to use against Germany. Well, if he wants it, we 
will give him his war!" 

"You may not like it, when you get it." 

The man laughed derisively. "Oh, the democracies always talk 
big, but perhaps they won't talk so big when they come up against 
the Luftwaffe." 

"Perhaps," replied Euan. "But I'd rather wait and see than take 
your word for it." 

Here the younger of the two interrupted heatedly. His cheeks 
were red and he spoke with passionate intensity. "England must 
realize Germany is not a country to be trampled on any longer. 
Your 'old men' are not so clever as they think. Our Fiihrer isn't 
deceived by your false friendship; he won't allow Germany's enemies 
to escape unpunished. We don't want a war, but if he tells us to 
march, we will follow him to the end!" 

*Tes," replied Euan acidly. "And perhaps it will be the end." 

This last remark was lost, for just then four friends joined the 
Storm Troopers and there was a round of hand-shakings and intro- 
ductions. But when we left, the dark, swarthy one broke off from 


his conversation, and in a contemptuous voice flung a "Heil Hitler" 
after us. 

On that same day people in England were opening Christmas cards 
from Mr, Chamberlain, showing the picture of an aeroplane with the 
simple inscription: "Munich." People in Germany were stopping in 
the streets to look at the New Year's posters showing the picture of 
a soldier in a steel helmet with a fixed bayonet. These, too, bore a 
simple inscription: "1939." 

Part Five 



Chapter I 




their boots and the red stars gleaming from their peaked caps, had 
already boarded the train. We had left Stolpce, the last Polish frontier 
station, twenty minutes before, and in another few minutes would 
reach the Soviet customs house at Negoreloye. 

The train moved through the darkness slowly. The windows were 
covered with frost and it was impossible to see out. I left my com- 
partment and went into the corridor. I was surprised to find how 
quiet it was. I walked through the carriage and discovered there 
were only three passengers besides myself: two couriers with the 
diplomatic mail an Englishman and a Pole and an English business 
man. It reminded me of a ghost train; the stillness, the blank white 
windows and the groaning of the wheels as they moved through 
the darkness. 

The English courier (officially known as the King's Messenger) 
and the English business man sat in their compartments reading maga- 
zines and eating chocolates, obviously bored (in the best British 
manner) by their surroundings. But the Polish courier was nervous. 
He was a small dark man who paced up and down, every now and 
then rubbing the window-pane and trying to see out. As I walked 
past him he spoke to me in French, his voice almost a whisper. "I 
don't like it. It's a bad business." 

"What is?" I asked in surprise. 

"Going into this country. When you cross the frontier you never 
know if you will ever return to the world again." 

His remark took me aback. For me, the trip to Russia was almost 
a holiday. On the continent hatreds were flaring up more brightly 



than ever; Hitler was denouncing Chamberlain as a hypocrite and 
Mussolini was shouting, "Savoy, Corsica, Tunis." All over Europe 
go\ r ernments were divided against each other and life had become 
even more restless than in the days before Munich. 

When the Sunday Times suggested I make a six weeks' trip to 
Moscow to write a series of articles on current conditions, I wel- 
comed the chance to escape from the gloom of London. Somehow 
Russia seemed another world. As a country it had always fired my 
imagination and as a political force, the subject of so much heated 
controversy, it aroused my curiosity. I had no bias either for or 
against the Soviets; I wanted to see for myself. In fact, I had wanted 
to see for myself for some time, but my application for a Russian 
visa two years before had been refused with no explanation. This 
time, Randolph Churchill had taken me to lunch with Mr. Maisky, 
the Soviet Ambassador in London, and Sir Robert Vansittart had 
unofficially recommended me to him. When I arrived in Warsaw the 
visa was waiting. I sent a wire to a friend in Moscow, Fitzroy Mac- 
lean, the Second Secretary of the British Embassy, and told him 
he could make good his promises of introducing me to Russian hos- 
pitality; I also hoped to see General Gal, the Russian soldier who had 
tried to convert me to Communism in Spain. Altogether, I was deter- 
mined to enjoy myself. 

My holiday spirit was a little dampened by the Polish courier's 
depressing comment, but a few minutes later we rolled into Negore- 
loye and anything more of a contrast to the sinister atmosphere he 
had suggested would be difficult to imagine. The station was a large 
white concrete building blazing with lights. The walls were deco- 
rated with photographs of Stalin, Lenin, and Marx, and inscribed 
with huge letters: "Workers Of The World Unite/' Unsmiling 
porters with burlap aprons boarded the train to take off our luggage, 
and we walked into a room swarming with husky-looking frontier 

I had been warned that the Soviet customs inspection was laborious 
and had been careful to clear my bag of letters and documents. I had 
even selected my reading matter carefully: Shaw's The Intelligent 
Woman's Guide To Socialism, which I had bought in Warsaw ex- 
pressly for the trip. I was pleased with my forethought, and when 


I saw the customs inspector frowning upon the English business 
man's Agatha Christie detective story, I was even more complacent. 
But, alas, Mr. Shaw's spirited plea for socialism also failed to impress 
him: one suspicious flip through the pages and he confiscated it. 
After a long examination my suitcases were returned to me intact, 
but the Polish courier did not fare so easily. He had a bag of lemons 
which aroused deep distrust. Each lemon was taken out and inspected 
under a magnifying glass. But this was not enough: another official 
appeared with a knife and one by one the lemons were cut open to 
make sure they contained no secret codes. The Polish courier watched 
the process unhappily, for by the time the inspectors had completed 
the job the lemons were of little use to anyone. 

Once again the train crawled and creaked over the broad-gauge 
rails. It was getting late and the porter lumbered down the corridor 
to tell us dinner was ready. I discovered that I was the only one who 
hadn't brought food from Warsaw. The two couriers were not 
allowed to leave their diplomatic bags even to go into the dining- 
car (the Polish courier said he had instructions to stay awake all 
night) and the business man was already munching sandwiches and 
drinking beer. 

No one seemed to mind being deprived of the benefits of the 
dining-car and I soon understood why. It was a small room with 
three or four tables, separated from the kitchen by a wall with an 
opening through which the dishes were passed. The window was 
open and I could see the cook, a woman with untidy grey hair 
streaming about her face and a pair of dirty hands with a bandage 
on one of her fingers. This was enough to put me off, but the prices 
settled the matter. The official exchange was twenty-five roubles to 
the pound: an omelette was twenty-three roubles. I finally had some 
tea and a caviare sandwich (the least expensive thing on the menu) , 
which came to eighteen roubles. The sandwich was meagre and I 
went back to my carriage almost as hungry as when I had left; the 
King's Messenger gave me a cookie and some cake and the Polish 
courier, a glass of lemonade, which he had made himself, angrily 
determined that his mutilated lemons should not be wasted. 

The next morning I was up early, eager not to miss any of the 
Russian landscape. It was bleak and dreary; miles of snowbound 


plains, dark clumps of trees, and every now and then a cluster of 
small wooden houses. Occasionally you saw people trudging along 
the roads; they looked so infinitesimal against the great sweep of 
snow that I could already feel the morbid despair reflected in so many 
Russian stories. 

About noon the train drew in at the Alexandrovsky station in 
Moscow. Although Fitzroy Maclean had come to meet me, he looked 
astonished when I stepped off the train. "What a surprise!" he ex- 
claimed. "I got your wire but I didn't actually think you'd turn up. 
People have a way of saying they're coming to Moscow, but they 
don't always make it." Fitzroy was a strange sight bundled up in a 
huge coat with a wild-looking fur hat pulled down over his ears. 
He was the sort of man you could never mistake for anything but an 
Englishman and an English diplomat at that. Tall and thin, he had 
a lackadaisical appearance that belied the fact he had "bummed his 
way" from Moscow to China and India, across the dangerous tribal 
lands of Central Asia; had been captured by bandits en route, escaped, 
and finally reached Delhi two months later one of the few for- 
eigners to succeed in making the trip. Fitzroy spoke Russian fluently 
and was considered not only one of the most enterprising but one 
of the ablest young men in the diplomatic service. 

As we drove through the streets, I craned my neck to get a 
glimpse of the city. I was surprised by the tall, modern buildings 
and the broad thoroughfares; but I was even more surprised when 
we reached the Embassy, a large stone residence on the Sofiskaya 
Naberezhnaya, and Fitzroy glanced through the back window and 
said, casually: "We haven't lost the rest of the party. We're all 
safely home again.'* 

A green car with two men in the front seat had pulled up a few 
yards behind us the G.P.U. (the secret police) car. Fitzroy ex- 
plained it usually followed the Ambassador, but as he was away on 
leave, the honour fell to the lesser members of the staff. I was aston- 
ished. My conception of 'secret police' was of a mysterious force 
that flourished in the shadows. "But what's the point of following 
people about openly?" I protested. 

"Oh, I don't know. But it's a great convenience to have them 
tagging on behind," said Fitzroy. "You grow dependent on them. 


When your car gets stuck in a snow-drift, or you run out of matches, 
you just whistle, and they give you a hand!" 

Everyone who goes to Russia has a very definite first impression. 
Mine was a feminine one. At lunch I met a French journalist (I 
can't remember his name) who offered to take me sight-seeing; I 
asked him to drive me to the shopping centre because I wanted to 
buy some woollen stockings. 

His jaw dropped. "You don't mean you've come to Russia with- 
out any woollen stockings?" 

"Why not? I thought Yd buy them here." 

"Good heavens! Do you really think you can buy woollen stock* 
ings here? Where do you think you are?" 

"In one of the coldest countries in the world. Why shouldn't I 
buy woollen stockings in Moscow?" 

"Don't ask me. Ask Mr. Molotov." 

Already the broad streets and the tall buildings seemed less im- 
pressive. Our car drew up before the Mostorg, a large co-operative 
store on the main street, glittering with lights and swarming with 
human beings. It was one of the noisiest stores I have ever been in. 
Three gramophones were playing, all blaring American jazz tunes 
and all different ones. Crowds shoved their way past the counters 
but nobody seemed to be buying anything. The people were rough- 
looking peasants: women with broad red hands and kerchiefs tied 
round their heads, men with leathery faces and short, square bodies. 
Everyone seemed warmly dressed but their clothes were oddly as- 
sorted. Some had pieces of flannel wrapped around their legs and 
bits of rags inside their coats. They looked as though they had pre- 
served every bit of cloth since childhood and wrapped the whole 
lot around them; and they smelled as though they had. 

The counters on the ground floor were stocked with an amazing 
array of cheap perfume, artificial flowers, banjos, gramophone rec- 
ords and children's toys. But when you got upstairs and looked for 
shoes, gloves, stockings, coats in fact, any form of wearing apparel 
you found the counters empty. In one corner of the store a long 


queue line twisted through the shop like a serpent's tail; news had 
spread that a supply of ribbon had arrived. 

The shop was as unreal as a stage set. Everything looked real 
until you got close. I could not understand why no one was buying 
anything and my friend explained that most of the people came 
in chiefly to get warm. 

As we were walking down the street on our way home, we passed 
a dingy window showing a silver fox fur, priced at a thousand 
roubles. "No woollen stockings but a silver fox fur," I protested. 
"And, anyway, what good is it? Who can afford to buy it?" 

"Oh, some commissar's wife. I can see you've got a lot to learn," 
said the journalist. 


Chapter II 


impression on me. But I soon discovered that this was only one of 
many paradoxes. The modern buildings and the broad streets shielded 
a world of dingy shops, dark overcrowded flats and empty markets. 
The queues waiting for anything from milk to shoes were even 
more numerous than they had been in Madrid after a year of siege. 

Everywhere you looked you found incongruous contradictions, 
The Moscow drinking water was chlorinated, and the gas unreliable, 
yet the streets were dotted with the latest type of snow-sweeper 
imported from America; the buses broke down, and the street cars 
stalled, yet three magnificent new bridges spanned the Moscow 
river; the dwelling-houses were insanitary and the rooms over- 
crowded, yet construction had already begun on the "Palace of the 
Soviets" which officials proclaimed would be "bigger than the Em- 
pire State Building" with a statue of Lenin on top "bigger than the 
Statue of Liberty." 

The emphasis on glamorous subway stations, modern cinemas 
and American jazz in a capital where the postage stamps wouldn't 
stick, the water-taps broke down, and the door-bells were invariably 
out of order, caused a French diplomat to shrug his shoulders and 
say despairingly: "Mais, c'est une facade!" 

Certainly Soviet life was a strange travesty on Western civilization. 
For a nation that sent its disciples abroad to convert the "pluto- 
democracies" to the leadership of Moscow, it seemed to have little 
to offer from a practical point of view, other than squalor and 
poverty. But far more disconcerting than the wretched conditions 
was the tyranny that gripped the capital. It was estimated that the 


purge, which had swept the country during the past two years, had 
sent over six million people to concentration camps. The G.P.U. 
were interwoven throughout the life of the nation; you couldn't 
be in Moscow long without feeling its influence. Foreigners were 
avoided like lepers as many 'purge* victims had been accused of 
connivance with capitalist powers, and Soviet citizens no longer 
dared run the risk of being seen in bourgeois company. I soon re- 
linquished any hope of seeing General Gal; during the month I was 
in Moscow not a single Russian visitor crossed the threshold of any 
of the embassies. 

The only contact foreigners had with Russian life was through 
their servants, or with officials who received them at their offices. 
But limited though one's associations were, dread tales of the secret 
police were constantly brought to one's attention. The Russian sec- 
retary of Harold Denny, the New York Times correspondent, was 
'taken' in the middle of the night and not heard of again; a Russian 
chauffeur's fourteen-year-old son was imprisoned in the Lubianka as 
a protest against one of the despatches his employer, a journalist, 
had sent; and at one of the embassies one of the footmen was sent 
off to Siberia because he studied French at night, giving one of his 
colleagues the opportunity of denouncing him as a Trotskyism 
Magnify these things a million times and you can get some idea of 
what Russia was like. 

When I think of Moscow now I always think of the stately 
yellow buldings of the Kremlin in the afternoon. When it snowed 
the Oriental cathedral domes gleamed against the darkening winter 
sky like pearls. One evening I looked out of the window at the 
silent white scene and saw the sky grow black with carrion crows. 
They swept over the Kremlin in a mighty wave, then dropped down 
on the roof ledges, with a quick, falling movement, as though their 
spirit had suddenly died. To me that dark cloud seemed symbolic of 
the terrible shadow that hung over Russia. 

Certainly the shadow was as strong as a prison bar for it had 
shut the frontiers, and now the nation was as insulated as a hermeti- 
cally-sealed laboratory. Indeed, the state of isolation in which Russia 
existed seemed scarcely possible in a world so closely knitted together 
by transport and wireless. Tourist trade was almost non-existent; 


ninety per cent, of the foreign correspondents had been expelled, 
and of the hundreds of foreign engineers who had swarmed over 
the country several years before, only forty or fifty Americans had 
been allowed to remain. It was no longer a mystery to me why 
there were only three people on the train going into Russia; and I 
understood Fitzroy's surprise at seeing me. The more I thought of 
it the more surprised I was myself. Why had I been granted a visa? 
Both Sir Robert Vansittart and Randolph Churchill (who had put in 
a word for me with Mr. Maisky) were 'anti-appeasers'; I could only 
come to the conclusion that the Russians imagined I had been sent 
to write in praise of the Soviet Union in an attempt to counteract 
a point of view, current in England, favouring the exclusion of Russia 
from European politics. 

Whatever was in their minds, I was received at the Foreign Office 
by Mr. Schmidt, the Foreign Press Chief, with marked cordiality. 
Four of Mr. Schmidt's predecessors had been liquidated, but his 
manner gave no indication that he regarded his job as a precarious 
one. He was an affable, smiling man who sat in front of a large 
window, overlooking the grey confines of the Lubianka prison. He 
rubbed his hands and said: "Well, now, tell me your first impression 
of Moscow." 

The woollen stockings were still uppermost in my mind, but I 
decided they were better left unmentioned and murmured the dull 
non-committal phrase I was to murmur a hundred times before I left. 
"Oh, very interesting." He asked me what I wanted to do in Moscow, 
and when I told him I would like to see as much of the every-day 
life as possible, he drew up a long list ranging from factories and 
collective farms to schools and museums. 

From then on my education began. Every morning punctually at 
eleven, a Soviet car (American make), with a middle-aged Russian 
woman as interpreter, appeared to take me around the city. Not 
being an economic expert, the figures and statistics showered upon 
me made little mark; but I was left with vivid impressions uncon- 
nected vignettes that don't fit in anywhere: the two peasant women 
crossing themselves fearfully before riding down the escalator of the 
Moscow subway; the factory radios blaring propaganda eight hours 
a day; the number of women bending over heavy machines; the 


doctor at the Railway Workers' Hospital hurrying me past the 
squalid rooms to show me the magnificent electric baths built by 
Soviet engineers; the matron in the candy factory leading me across 
an alleyway, where garbage had been dumped and left to rot, into 
the packing-room where she called attention to the fact that the 
workers wore hygienic aprons; the wretched group of peasants wait- 
ing in the cold to see the director of a collective farm who was busy 
compiling statistics for me on the record production of hot house 

I saw nothing new. The factories, club-houses and schools I was 
shown were third-rate imitations of Western progress. All this I 
had expected; but what I hadn't expected was that I should be asked 
to marvel at the most commonplace conveniences, as though I had 
come from a jungle, where even the tick of a clock was an un- 
known miracle. For instance, when I visited the Railway Workers' 
Hospital I was shown a committee room where the doctors met. It 
was a room with grey and green wall-paper and a long, polished, 
wooden table, with eight or nine chairs around it. There was nothing 
to distinguish it from an ordinary committee room anywhere. But 
the doctor who was conducting me round, pushed open the door 
and gazed in rapturously. "Isn't it marvellous!" he exclaimed. "It 
was decorated entirely by Soviet architects." 

It wasn't the enthusiasm for Soviet achievements that surprised 
me; but the fact that these achievements were presented as unique. 
I found the misinformation and ignorance of conditions in the out- 
side world grotesque. When I went to the Kaganovitch Ball-Bearing 
Works, I was shown a shabby canteen where workers could buy 
snack lunches. One of the women foremen, a twenty-five year old 
Stakonovite, exclaimed over it and gave me a short lecture. 

"I suppose you have never seen anything like this before. You 
see, here in Russia we believe in the happiness of our workers. First 
of all, they must be well fed, so we have organized this wonderful 
canteen. Of course, I know people in capitalist countries laugh at 
such ideas. But one day they will advance to our way of thinking." 

On another occasion, I visited the Modern Art Museums in Mos- 
cow. The corridors were swarming with people: groups of soldiers, 
factory workers, and school-children who were being lectured on 


the paintings (carefully interpreted in terms of the "economic con- 
ditions" that flourished at the time). My guide, a young woman in 
her late twenties, commented proudly on the visitors. 

"Here in the Soviet Union the museums are open to the workers." 

I remarked that in America we, too, had museums and libraries 
open to the public. 

"But just for the bourgeois classes." 

"Oh no. They are open to the public. That means everyone." 

"Perhaps you're not sure of your facts," she said gently. "We 
have studied the problem closely and the Soviet Union is the only 
country which allows its working people the advantages of culture." 

I said no more and a few minutes later she asked me how long I 
was staying in Moscow. When I replied only a week or so, she gave 
me a pitying look. "It must be sad for you." 

"In what way?" 

"Oh, I always feel sorry for people who have to return to a 
bourgeois world. After seeing the comradeship of Russia, it must 
be difficult to adjust oneself to the greed of capitalist life again. 
Everything here is an inspiration." 

During all these trips I wondered what went through the mind 
of my interpreter. She was an educated woman who had travelled 
abroad before the revolution, and much of what we saw and heard 
must have seemed as naive to her as it did to me. However, I never 
had any indication of her reactions. She was Madame X not because 
she was fascinating in any way she was just an ordinary, plain, 
middle-aged woman but because of the mystery behind her drab 
life. She shivered in the cold in a cloth coat and a pair of patched 
gloves. When she appeared in the morning, I always wondered what 
sort of house she had left, and what kind of life she had led before 
the revolution. But aside from the fact that she spoke English with 
an American accent, and told me she had once spent a year or two 
in Chicago, I never learned anything further about her. She made 
no attempt to sound my impressions nor to give me propaganda 
lectures. In fact, she registered nothing: neither surprise, disapproval 
nor enthusiasm. She talked in a flat, mechanical voice that never 
varied and to the bitter end remained an enigma. 

Only once did she show any interest. That was when I decided 


to send a telegram to Stalin. For a brief moment, astonishment crossed 
her face, then she recovered herself and told the chauffeur to drive 
to the telegraph station. (When I had asked Mr. Schmidt to make 
my request through the Press Bureau he had laughed self-consciously 
and suggested I make the application direct.) 

I wrote out my telegram in English and asked Madame X to put 
it into Russian, but she drew back alarmed, and said it would be 
better to send it in English. The telegram said: 

Joseph Stalin The Kremlin I wish to call your attention to the fact 
that you have never been interviewed by a woman journalist stop since 
the Soviet Union professes equality between the sexes I should be grate- 
ful if I might have the honour to correct the illogical precedent you 
comma no doubt inadvertently comma have set stop. 

When I handed the telegram to the girl behind the counter there 
was a moment of awful silence. She got up and went into consultation 
with her colleagues. Whispered conferences went on for some time; 
at last, the manager appeared at the window. "Your telegram," he 
said stiffly, "will be delivered at the Kremlin in twenty-two-and-a- 
half minutes." 

Why twenty-two-and-a-half I never discovered. And whether 
twenty-two-and-a-half or just twenty-two, it didn't matter for I 
never got an answer. 

At night the red stars in the Kremlin spires gleamed through the 
heavy fall of snow like gigantic fireflies. The Red Square was de- 
serted and lonely and the sentries by the Kremlin gates stood as stiff 
as snowmen. One evening, Fitzroy and I were walking past the Em- 
bassy when the silence was suddenly broken by a large green Lin- 
coln motor-car that came hurtling towards us. You knew a "big shot" 
was inside by the bullet-proof windshield and the tightly-drawn 
curtains. It may have been Stalin. Whoever it was, as the car swept 
through the Kremlin gates to a click of arms and disappeared in the 
darkness, my imagination was stirred; the authority of the Czars 
suddenly seemed pale compared with the power of the ruler of all 
the Soviet Socialist Republics, 


This, like everything else in Russia, was paradoxical. Indeed, 
paradoxes were more the rule than the exception. I was becoming 
used to lines queued up for milk under the shadow of bill boards that 
said brightly: "Drink Soviet Champagne." To the fact that although 
you couldn't buy a yard of cloth to make a dress, the shop counters 
were decorated with pictures of the latest French fashions; that al- 
though the salary of the average working man was 240 roubles a 
month, ballet dancers earned as much as 100,000 roubles a year; 
that although Soviet Russia claimed to be a dictatorship of the 
proletariat, under the label of the "Intelligentzia" you found a class 
of privilege and power. 

The Intelligentzia was not confined to the arts. Officially defined 
in 1938, it included technicians, police officials and bureaucrats in 
fact, the white-collar class of the Soviet Union. You saw them dining 
at the leading hotels; driving through the streets in their state-owned 
cars; flowing through the lobbies of the movie houses; sitting in the 
best seats at the opera and the ballet. 

On the night before a "free day" they thronged the restaurant of 
the Metropole Hotel. I went there one evening with Walter Duranty, 
Harold Denny, and his wife Jean. The air was blue with smoke and 
the large marble floor, with an old-fashioned fountain in the centre, 
was packed with dancers doing the latest American steps. Most of 
the women had hennaed hair and were dressed in blouses and skirts 
and white berets; the men wore uniforms ranging from khaki of the 
army to the dark blue breeches and tunic of the ordinary citizen. 
Vodka and champagne flowed freely; Walter told me the wooden 
railing round the fountain had been put up because so many people 
fell in. Never have I been to a more noisy party. Hundreds of bal- 
loons were distributed throughout the room and the guests amused 
themselves by wrapping the strings with paper, lighting them, and 
watching them drift up to the ceiling. They exploded midway and 
the noise sounded like an artillery barrage. The orchestra grew 
louder in an effort to be heard and conversation became impossible. 

The Intelligentzia set the nation's standard of elegance. With the 
rise of this new class many ideas and customs, formerly classed as 
"bourgeois," were being accepted. The severe post-revolutionary 
buildings were gradually giving way to more elaborate structures; 


Christmas trees, formerly frowned upon, had re-appeared under the 
title of Father Frost trees; and although Soviet citizens didn't wear 
evening clothes, except at official functions, you saw the conductor 
of the opera in tails and a white tie. 

The energies of the Intelligentzia were bent on the acquisition of 
"culture." This determination was reflected in every branch of Soviet 
life. The main amusement park in Moscow was called "The Park of 
Rest and Culture," while the chief organization that dealt with for- 
eign tourists was labelled "The Society for Cultural Relations." The 
word "culture," however, was elastic. It applied as easily to a restau- 
rant with clean tablecloths as to a man of learning. When Alfred 
Cholerton, the Daily Telegraph correspondent, refused to buy a gas 
range from a Soviet salesman, saying that he considered a coal stove 
more reliable, the latter protested with the argument: "But gas is so 

The height of modern culture was symbolized by jazz spelled 
"daz." Most of the cinemas were equipped with jazz orchestras and 
the salaries of the band leaders ran as high as 1,500 roubles a month. 
One evening Fitzroy and I went into a movie house to find the lobby 
packed with people listening to a jazz concert. The music was awful. 
The saxophones tore the air and the trumpets caterwauled in melan- 
choly discord, but the audience sat in their chairs listening as in- 
tently as though they were hearing a symphony conducted by Sir 
Thomas Beecham. 

We saw a film called "The Oppenheim Family." Like most Soviet 
pictures it was a propaganda film. But it was an odd one. Although 
it dealt with the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the producer's 
aesthetic sense had evidently got the better of him for the young 
Jewish hero was portrayed by a tall blonde Nordic, while the Nazi 
persecutors were the most odious types of Jews. Several scenes 
showing concentration camps met with an uncomfortable silence, 
suggesting that the director had skirted too close to reality. 

Soviet "culture" had little to recommend it. However, the brilliance 
of the Moscow theatre and ballet, run in the old bourgeois manner, 
more'thaA inade up for the dreariness of the new art. The Soviet 
State spent thousands of roubles on the ballet, and the magnificent 
costumes and sets, the quality of the dancing, were unsurpassed. The 


Opera House was crowded nightly, and tickets had to be booked 
well in advance. The stalls were filled with important Soviet officials, 
but the galleries were often turned over to groups of factory workers. 
The shabbiness of the audience seemed curiously out of place when 
the lights dimmed and the great curtains wept apart on a glittering 
pre-revolutionary setting. Princesses and noblemen moved about 
against a background of luxury which was difficult to reconcile with 
the Soviet conception of life. The first ballet I saw was "The Prisoner 
of the Caucasus" in which Simyonova, the star of Russia, danced. 
She was small, dainty, and unbelievably graceful. The audience 
cheered her to the rafters. 

Incidental was the fact that her husband, Mr. Karakhan, a former 
Ambassador to Turkey, had been one of the victims of the 1937 


Chapter III 



seemed to me the dreariest city on earth, and the depression pene- 
trated my bones like a damp fog. I never walked out on the streets 
without clutching my bag to feel if my passport was really there, 
and counting the days before I was to leave. 

Perhaps the fact that it was new to me made it seem all the more 
appalling. Most foreigners who had lived in the country for some 
while seemed to take the conditions around them for granted, ignor- 
ing them, and leading their own lives as best they could. I didn't 
stay long enough to grow indifferent to the squalor. But it wasn't 
only this that depressed me. It was the stagnant mentality that hung 
in the air like stale tobacco-smoke, undisturbed by a single original 
current of thought. 

The chief distinction between man and animal is the critical 
faculty of the human mind. In the Soviet Union just as in Germany 
the critical faculty was carefully exterminated, so that the mass 
might sweat out their existence as uncomplainingly as oxen, obedient 
to the tyranny of the day. Truth was a lost word. Minds were doped 
with distorted information until they became so sluggish they had 
not even the power to protest against their miserable conditions. The 
Pravda never tired of revealing to its readers the iniquities of the 
outside world, always pointing the same moral how blessed were 
the people of the Soviet Union. 

To me, the contempt for intellectual and moral values and the 
ruthless disregard of the individual, was not only depressing: it was 
evil. I felt the same way as I had in Spain and Germany; that if I 
didn't get a breath of fresh air I would stifle. The physical appear- 


ancc of Moscow helped to accentuate this feeling. The streets were 
as drab as the mentality of the people. It was a world of grey, black 
and white unrelieved by a single splash of colour; not a single gay 
head-dress, a bright shop front, or even a happy smile. The only wall 
decorations were photographs of Marx, Lenin and Stalin. It became 
my own particular theory that the reason crowds filed into the 
mausoleum to see Lenin lying in state, white and waxy, was that the 
softly-lighted marble death-chamber was a pleasant escape from 

One of the few interesting features of Moscow life was that for- 
eigners, isolated as they were from contact with Russians, were com- 
pletely dependent on one another; you found that the political 
enmities of the continent were forgotten, and Germans, French, 
British and Italians were bosom friends. On the second day of my 
arrival Fitzroy took me to lunch at the German Embassy. It was a 
strange contrast to step off the dim Moscow streets and sit down for 
lunch in a large dining-room with five footmen hovering about. The 
food was imported from the Baltic States and we fared well on six 
courses and four wines. I was told this Embassy was given a larger 
allowance than any other German embassy in an effort to "impress" 
the Russians. 

Lunch was presided over by Count von der Schulenburg (the 
Ambassador who six months later engineered the Russo-German 
pact and who was leaving the next day for Berlin "on business"). 
It was an odd experience to hear his staff murmuring about the in- 
iquities of the concentration camps and the ruthlessness of the 
Stalin regime. 

One of the most popular "foreign" meeting-places was the Ameri- 
can datcha a cottage about twelve miles from Moscow belonging 
to Charles and Avis Bohlen of the American Embassy. On Sundays 
dozens of people gathered there for skiing. The road you drove 
along from Moscow was a state road, near which one of Stalin's 
villas was situated. All you could see was a large green fence and 
some trees, heavily guarded. Although the road was wide enough 
for three cars, traffic was kept in single file lest the Great Man 


should choose to come by in a hurry. Once a foreign diplomat was 
driving along when one of the Kremlin cars, with blinds tightly 
drawn, passed him at sixty miles an hour. He swung out and fol- 
lowed it, but a minute or two later was stopped by an angry police- 

"Don't you know the speed limit is thirty miles an hour?" 

"But that man ahead was going sixty and you didn't stop him." 

"That has nothing to do with it!" 

The diplomat's tone was shocked. "Do you mean in Russia some 
people have privileges and others have not? I was told this was a 
socialist country. Are you trying to deny it?" 

The policeman evidently wasn't, for his manner changed and he 
waved the embarrassing foreigner nervously on. 

The datcha was always crowded with people; military attaches 
who had never seen a Soviet army manoeuvre; naval attaches who 
had never seen a Soviet battleship; journalists who had never inter- 
viewed a Soviet statesman; ambassadors who had never met the 
Soviet ruler. All of them living in Russia, yet carefully excluded from 
Russian life; water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink. 

One afternoon I remember the Italian Ambassador, Signor Rosso, 
coming in shaking the snow off his boots and protesting indignantly 
that his G.P.U. men had taken it upon themselves even to follow 
him ski-ing. His wife told him he mustn't get so upset. 

"But how can I help it?" cried the Ambassador excitedly. "I go 
down a hill and they go down a hill. I go over a jump and they go 
over a jump. And who falls down? / do! " 

I heard George, the Russian servant, murmuring in his flat, metal- 
lic voice: "There, there." 

I soon sympathized with the Ambassador's irritation for a few 
days later I went to Leningrad for the weekend with "Chips" and 
Avis Bohlen, and found out for myself what it was like to be under 
the supervision of the G.P.U. 

There was great excitement amongst the maids in the Bohlen 
household on the night we left. At first I thought they were im- 
pressed by our trip, but Avis explained that a shipment of cloth had 


arrived at the Cooperative store and now that we were leaving they 
were planning to spend the night in the queue in order to be the 
first to get in when the doors opened in the morning. 

Our train was the "Red Arrow" the crack Soviet express. (It 
averaged 32 miles an hour and arrived in Leningrad an hour late.) 
I shared a compartment with a middle-aged Russian woman, who 
was already in bed when I walked in; I was surprised to find she 
spoke English. 

"Tell me," she said, "how do you say 'Switch off the lights'? " 

"Oh. Do you want me to put them off?" 

c< No, no. But do you say switch off the lights or switch out the 

I became nearly as puzzled as she and murmured that either one 
would do. 

"Oh! you say eyethtr not eether." 

She explained that she taught English in a school in Moscow. But 
as she had learned the language by herself and never had the oppor- 
tunity of talking with anyone whose native tongue it was, there were 
a good many problems she was unable to solve. 

"For instance," she said. "What do you say when you want to 
switch off the switch?" 

She had me there, and as soon as I climbed into my berth I pre- 
tended I was asleep. But the next morning I awoke to find her hover- 
ing over me. 

"Excuse me. One more thing. Do you say look out the window, 
or look out of the window?" 

Fortunately, the ticket collector intervened and I never had to 
give an answer. 

We had come to Leningrad for two days of quiet sight-seeing, but 
the moment we stepped off the train we found ourselves surrounded 
by porters from the Astoria Hotel, by Intourist guides and repre- 
sentatives from the Society of Cultural Relations. A schedule was 
already planned: a cigarette factory, a creche, an inspection of the 
Peter Paul fortress where some of the Old Bolsheviks had once been 
incarcerated. We added we would also like to visit the Hermitage 


and the palaces of Catherine the Great and the late Czar Nicholas 
the Second. 

Our sight-seeing was supervised by three members of the "secret" 
police small men with caps pulled down over their faces who 
trailed us everywhere we went. They became almost an obsession 
to us; we found ourselves hurrying around corners and darting in 
and out of doors in an effort to lose them; sometimes we thought we 
had succeeded, but a few minutes later they always turned up. 

We first became aware of them on our way to Pushkin, a town not 
far from Leningrad where the palace of Catherine the Great was sit- 
uated. The country roads were deserted and there was no mistaking 
the police car behind us. It was an extraordinary performance, for 
although the G.P.U. followed us openly and blatantly, when we 
reached Pushkin, the men climbed out and took pains to put on an 
elaborate act (gesticulating and pointing) to pretend they had come 
to look at the scenery. 

The Russian guide who had accompanied us never referred to 
them. In spite of their paralysing effect, we persevered with our 
sight-seeing and tried to appear as oblivious as she. We spent hours 
in the palaces, walking through rooms so cold we had to jump up 
and down to keep warm. The Czar's palace was simple in compari- 
son with the grandeur of Catherine's, It was about the size of a large 
English country house. It was filled with overstuffed Victorian 
furniture and cluttered with knick-knacks and photographs, fash- 
ionable at the period. I was surprised by the modesty with which the 
Czar had lived, but our Communist guide evidently preferred Cath- 
erine's splendour, for she remarked contemptuously: "You can see 
for yourself the decadence to which the royal house had fallen." 

I wondered what she thought of Leningrad with its beautiful 
copper-domed and golden-spired buildings crumbling and neglected, 
with its streets uncared for and its fine parks going to seed. It had 
the sad melancholy air of a person who has lost his mind and lives 
solely in the past. 

Only in the Hotel Astoria was the atmosphere different. Here the 
restaurant was crowded with Soviet "intelligentzia," who seemed to 
have plenty of roubles to spend and gulped down their vodka with 


The word culture was on everybody's lips, and if we heard it 
once, we heard it a dozen times. The manager asked us if we had 
slept well, explaining: "I have given you our most cultured beds." 
And in the restaurant, when we hesitated over a choice between 
cutlets and boiled chicken, the waiter intervened: "I think you 
will find the chicken more cultured." 

But the time we found the word most surprisingly employed was 
in the cigarette-factory. In one of the packing-rooms we noticed a 
group of sailors nailing down the crates. When we asked why they 
were there the director replied there was a shortage of labour and 
they had come to help. "They're friends of the factory workers," 
he explained earnestly. "You see, we have a club where our girls 
maintain cultural relations with the navy." 

We went back to Moscow on the "Red Arrow." We walked 
through the train to see if the G.P.U. men were still with us, but 
saw no one. We thought we had lost them, but when we got on 
next morning we looked around to find the three little figures with 
their caps pulled down over their faces only a few yards behind us. 
As we climbed into our car I turned around and waved good-bye. 
Two looked embarrassed and turned their backs; but the third 
grinned showing a flash of gold teeth. 

When the Bohlens got home they learned that their servants had 
stood in the queue from midnight until noon the next day. But there 
were so many others ahead of them, the cloth had run out, and they 
had been turned away empty-handed. 


Chapter IV 



the wife of an official in the German Embassy. She told me she be- 
lieved a European war inevitable, owing to the fact that the German 
economic system was designed for one thing and one thing alone: 

"Of course, if we could get an agreement with Russia, perhaps 
it would serve as an outlet for us. Many people in the German For- 
eign Office favour it, but Hitler is so anti-Bolshevik, he won't give 
his consent." 

"But what about the Soviets?" I said in surprise. "Surely they 
wouldn't consider it?" 

"Oh yes. The Russians are willing. They are afraid of coming up 
against Germany." 

That was February 1939, six months before Russia signed her 
non-aggression pact with Germany. At the time I didn't take the 
rumour seriously; too much bitterness seemed to block the way. But 
observers were already noting significant changes in Russia's policy. 
It was swinging, pendulum-like, from an aggressive policy of world 
revolution to a negative policy of self-defence. That February, the 
army discarded its oath to the world proletariat and, for the first 
time, bound its allegiance solely to the Soviet Fatherland. It was also 
noted that when Hitler attacked Czechoslovakia in his pre-Munich 
Nuremberg speech the Soviet press dismissed the occasion with only 
four lines. What was happening? Was Russia forsaking Communism 
and going Fascist herself? 

The answer to Russia's policy, both internal and external, both 


then and now, lay in one thing: those empty shops, those queues and 
those dark, overcrowded dwelling-houses. 

The struggle in which the Soviet Union was involved that winter, 
on the eve of its swing-over to Germany, was the same struggle upon 
which the country embarked in 1928 when it announced its five-year 
plan; namely, the struggle to industrialize a vast backward agricul- 
tural country with a mixture of dozens of nationalities and a largely 
primitive people. 

But in 1939 the problem had become more acute than ever. Heavy 
industry was showing little increase, a fact which foreign engineers 
attributed to the workers' inability to handle highly complicated 
machinery; to wastage, bureaucracy, and a general lack of co-ordi- 
nation difficulties which were a result of an attempt to superimpose 
twentieth-century industrialization from above rather than let it 
develop gradually from below. 

The Soviet Union was discovering gradually and painfully that 
Marxism was not a philosophy designed for an agricultural country; 
it was a philosophy of distribution rather than of production. The 
expert engineer was proving far more important to Soviet indus- 
trialization than the zealous party man; and for this reason the 
power of the Communist party was steadily declining. Although 
Communism was still the philosophy of the nation, in 1939 the party 
resembled scarcely more than a vast publicity organization to sell 
the Stalin regime to the worker. 

These salesmen were invaluable in bolstering up the sagging morale 
of the people; impressing on them the iniquities of the capitalist sys- 
tem and assuring them they were better off than the workers of 
other countries. But the Communist theory "from each according 
to his ability, to each according to his needs" had been discarded 
for the more workable, but un-Communistic, slogan "from each 
according to his ability, to each according to his 'worth. 99 

This meant that the majority of Soviet workers and peasants were 
paid not regular salaries but by piece work and labour days. The 
average worker's wage was estimated at 240 roubles a month, but 
the minimum wage was sometimes as low as 130 roubles. The pur- 
chasing power of the rouble was roughly estimated at threepence. 
(The official exchange was 25 roubles to the pound.) Food prices 


were so out of proportion that if meat had been available every day 
(which it was not) it would have cost the average working man a 
quarter of his weekly salary. 

The majority of workers and peasants lived on bread which was 
kept at a low fixed price on cabbage, soup and porridge. Although 
rents were cheap, in Moscow it was impossible for a worker to rent 
more than a few feet of floor space. Sometimes three or four families 
shared the same room. When a Russian girl (who worked at one 
of the embassies), known to be unhappily married was asked why 
she didn't divorce her husband, she replied that since the law for- 
bade her to turn him out of their living quarters, she was afraid he 
might get married again and add an extra person to an already 
crowded room. 

The important Soviet police official or bureaucrat had none of 
these inconveniences. He was rewarded not only by a far larger salary 
than an ordinary worker, but in his ability to get a room or a flat to 
himself; to get vegetables and meat without standing in a queue; to 
have a car and chauffeur at his disposal rather than waiting endlessly 
for overcrowded buses. When manufactured goods appeared on 
the market, he had the first and usually the last choice. Since posi- 
tions of power in the Soviet Union carried with them privileges 
which in other countries would be considered everyday necessities 
of life, the struggle that went on for bureaucratic jobs was fierce 
and ruthless. 

Although the Communist party performed an indispensable job 
as Stalin's "super-salesmen" they had little power in running the 
country. Stalin ruled and he ruled by means of the secret police. 
G.P.U. agents were interwoven in the fabric of every dwelling- 
house, of every factory and village. Any rebellion or dissatisfaction 
with the regime was conveniently bracketed as "anti-Communist." 
Although the constitution of the Soviet Government proclaimed 
freedom of speech, a volume issued that winter entitled A History 
of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, carefully explained 
that disagreement equalled diversion; that diversion equalled dissen- 
sion; and that dissension equalled sabotage. Thus, when it was con- 
sidered advantageous to liquidate a rival it could always be done on 
an orthodox basis. 


In view of the difficult conditions, and the fact that the Soviet 
Union was abandoning many Socialist principles in practice, there 
is little doubt that some of the old Bolsheviks came into disagreement 
with Stalin on methods of procedure. There even may have been 
plans to take the control of the government in their own hands. 
Since it would have been impossible for Stalin to eliminate Lenin's 
"old guard" on grounds of disagreement, it became necessary to 
fabricate stories of treason and connivance with foreign powers. It 
is interesting to notice that Mr. Ivanov, one of the defendants in a 
trial in 1938, was accused of "wrecking" by means of putting ground 
glass and nails in the butter. This evidence was received with im- 
mense satisfaction, as it seemed to explain the great scarcity of 
butter throughout the country. 

The purge not only swept through Soviet political and army life, 
but continued like a mighty avalanche through the industrial life 
into the most humble home. The Russian imagination had been fired; 
and with ambition and envy playing a prominent part in the "de- 
nouncing" of rivals, the purge continued until it grew out of all pro- 
portion. In the winter of 1939, Yezhoff replaced Beriya as the head 
of the G.P.U., and there was an effort to bring it to a halt. But it was 
too late. Russia was weak and exhausted. The question as to whether 
the Soviet Union was abandoning Communism could be answered 
in a single phrase: the Soviet Union was struggling to keep alive. 

One of the articles I had been sent to Moscow to write was a re- 
view of the Red Army. How had this internal upheaval affected the 
Soviet striking force? The Red Army was numbered at over two 
million, with an estimate that, in the event of a general mobilization, 
twelve million men could be placed in the field. Many people, over- 
whelmed by these figures, regarded the Soviet Union as one of the 
most powerful forces in Europe. 

As Soviet garrisons and armaments factories were closely guarded 
secrets there was no opportunity to get first-hand information; one 
could only draw deductions. But the breakdown of agricultural 
machinery, the lack of repair shops, the irregularity of fuel supplies, 
and the fact that a Soviet-manufactured car could not be relied upon 


beyond 7,000 miles led one to doubtful conclusions. Most of the 
railways had been left in the same condition as when they had been 
taken over by the Bolsheviks. The total mileage of paved roads in 
the whole of the Soviet Union was equal to the paved mileage in 
Rhode Island the smallest of America's forty-eight States. 

Judging from these things alone, in an article which was published 
in the New York Times, I wrote: 

The striking power of a nation does not depend solely on the strength 
of its armaments but on the co-ordination and sustaining power of its 
industries. The tremendous difficulties with which the Soviet Union is 
faced in its efforts to superimpose twentieth-century civilization upon a 
backward and primitive country are not likely to be realized in the near 
future; and until the nation's industries are more competently organized 
and its people supplied with adequate wants, the Soviet Union can in no 
way be regarded as a first-class military Power. 

Apart from the economic conditions there was also the purge to 
reckon with. The purge had cut a deeper swathe through the Army 
than through any other branch of Soviet life. That winter, military 
experts calculated that 75 per cent, of the officers of the rank of 
colonel and above had been liquidated in the two previous years. 
The extent of this sweep became significant when, out of the eight 
officers who court martialled Tukachevski and his seven colleagues, 
six were themselves later executed; that when the Red Army paraded 
past Stalin in November 1937, officers were not allowed to carry 
guns in their holsters. 

Stalin's accusations of treason rang a false note throughout the 
world and there seemed to be no logical explanation for the motives 
compelling him to disrupt the very forces upon which the security 
of the nation rested. Upon examining the gradual change in the 
structure of the army during the past twenty years, however, one 
found a thread of consistency running through the Soviet upheaval. 

In 1937 the officer class of the Red Army represented a privileged 
and powerful clique. This was a far cry from the early twenties, 
when, under the guidance of Trotsky, little distinction was made 
between officers and men. In those days officers received the same 
pay as their subordinates: they wore no badge or rank, they cleaned 


their own boots, shared the mess-rooms, and took an oath which 
bound them to the International World Proletariat. 

The change in the structure of the Red Army was largely due to 
the influence of German militarism. Until Hitler came into power 
in 1933, the Soviet Union worked in close collaboration with Ger- 
many. As early as 1923 German aeroplane factories were constructed 
in Russia, while from the date of the Rapallo Treaty onwards hun- 
dreds of German military experts conducted training schools in the 
Soviet Union. Beneath the methodical German influence fraternizing 
between officers and men ceased and the officers gradually became 
segregated into a class of their own. 

Although military collaboration between Russia and Germany 
ended with the advent of the Nazi party, the Soviet Union continued 
to build on the established foundations. Ideas once considered bour- 
geois gradually crept back; officers* pay was increased, medals were 
reintroduced, and many of the old uniforms revived. 

In 1937 Stalin was suddenly confronted by an army clique with 
a visibly swelling power. Although it is extremely doubtful that 
members of this group were conniving abroad, there may have been 
dissension among them as to the methods which Stalin was employ- 
ing in his ruthless and whirlwind efforts to industrialize the country. 
It is apparent that Stalin foresaw a force which might eventually 
threaten his own position; and waging the same preventive war with 
which he stripped the Communist party of its leaders and, later, rid 
industrial forces and police organizations of their chiefs, he struck 
a blow at the Army. 

Indeed, there was evidence that for some time Stalin had been 
concerned in transforming the Army into a thoroughly passive in- 
strument. In 1925, 85 per cent, of the Army was composed of peas- 
ants, and the remainder of industrial workers, which was more or 
less in proportion to the nation's division of labour. Since the famines 
of 1932-33, however a direct result of the Government's ruthless 
collectivization of the land the loyalty of the peasant population 
was evidently considered of a dubious character, for now nearly 50 
per cent, of the Army was recruited directly from the ranks of in- 
dustrial workers. Also significant was the fact that the number of 
Communists had increased from 19 per cent, in 1925 to over 50 per 


cent, in 1939; in fact, most of the motorized troops were recruited 
exclusively from among the latter. 

Although the Soviet Government argued that the purge had 
strengthened the army by the elimination of dissenting elements, it 
was obvious it could scarcely have increased its technical efficiency. 
The promotion of junior officers to fill the gaps in the higher com- 
mands created such a dearth in the lower ranks that Vorishiloff was 
forced to order 10,000 cadets, who had not completed their courses 
at the military schools, to be enrolled as lieutenants. 

The ^introduction of political commissars was also a factor of 
significance. The functions of the commissars were more or less 
obsolete until they were revived by a decree in May 1937. From 
that date on, they had equal authority with the commanding offi- 
cers. They countersigned all orders and in extreme cases could even 
veto plans for an attack. An indication of their power was revealed 
by the fact that Red Army soldiers took an oath binding their 
allegiance to "Commanding Officers, Commissars and Superiors." 

The efficiency of an army operating under such dual control was 
obviously questionable. In 1918 when the commissars were first in- 
stalled to prevent the desertion of White officers who were forced to 
serve in the Bolshevik ranks, the difficulties arising from the dual 
relationship were revealed in a letter written by Trotsky: 

Re the participation of officers in White Guard revolts, I note that 
quarrels between commissars and military leaders have lately been increas- 
ing. From the evidence at my disposal it is apparent that commissars 
often take a direcdy wrong line of action, either by usurping operative 
and leadership functions, or by poisoning the relations between officer 
and commissar by a policy of petty quibbling carried out in a spirit of 
undignified rivalry. 

There was no reason to suppose that in twenty years the human 
element has altered to such an extent difficulties such as these would 
not rise again. But it wasn't until I went to Finland the following 
winter that I had a chance to judge the Red Army from experience 
rather than hypothetical reasoning. 


Chapter V 



above the River Dnieper like jewels in a coronet, while the ice-bound 
river far below shone in the moonlight like a white satin train. But 
with the daylight the beauty passed like a strange dream, and you 
found an atmosphere of desolation all the more accentuated by the 
bleakness of the winter sky. The paint was chipping off the buildings, 
the shop windows were cracked and dirty, and every few blocks 
there were queues. The poverty was oppressive. It was irreconcilable 
with the fact that Kiev was the capital city of the Soviet Ukraine 
an area almost as large as France with the most fertile farm lands 
in Europe. 

In that winter of 1938-39 many people believed that these farm 
lands were Germany's ultimate aim. Not many months before, Hitler 
had declared that if "the unending cornfields of the Ukraine lay 
within Germany, under National Socialist leadership, the country 
(Germany) would swim in plenty." 

The Russians had taken note of this. Although the Ukrainian 
newspapers carried no hint of a threat from abroad, the city flowed 
with troops. The villages were honeycombed with G.P.U. agents and 
at night the factories were illuminated and guarded by watchmen to 
prevent any attempts at sabotage. Finally, all foreign consulates, with 
the exception of the Polish, had been abolished, and the region un- 
officially closed to tourists. Indeed, foreigners had become such a 
rarity that when Frank Hayne, the American assistant military at- 
tach6, and I wandered around the streets, we were regarded as a 
curiosity. In the shops, crowds collected around us to fed our 
clothes and ask us where we had bought our boots. 



I was on my way out of Russia and had been given permission to 
leave via the Roumanian frontier, travelling through Kiev and 
Odessa en route. Frank, with a diplomatic passport, was able to travel 
where he liked and had come with me to take a look round. Six years 
ago, when the Soviet Government had adopted drastic methods in 
an attempt to collectivize the land, over six million people had died 
of starvation in the Ukraine. Now most of the kolkhozes were estab- 
lished, and Frank and I were interested in learning something of 
present conditions in order to get an indication of what resistance 
the Ukraine could offer against a German attack. 

But the Soviet authorities seemed to have another view on the 
matter. From the moment our train pulled into Kiev we were sur- 
rounded by G.P.U. men and it looked as though we would have 
little opportunity of seeing anything. We were trailed by the police 
day and night, even when we inspected the mummies of the priests 
buried in the catacombs of an ancient monastery. This annoyed 
Frank more than anything else. He was a delightful, easy-going 
southerner from New Orleans, but he had a temper that could flare 
up forcefully and unexpectedly. 

"Ah suppose they think we're goin' to start a Trotsky conspiracy 
among the mummies," he said indignantly. "If those fellows tag on 
behind me much longer ah'm goin' to take a crack at them. Ah don't 
mind being followed, but ah object to having them step on mah 

When we asked the authorities for permission to visit a collective 
farm we were refused with a series of polite excuses. First, the 
director was out of town for the day; then the farm machinery was 
under repair; and last, the roads were too bad to travel over. As there 
were no taxis or public cars, we were helpless. But the more our 
path was baulked the more determined we became to have our way. 

In the end we visited a collective farm, but not with official con- 
sent. We finally called on the Polish Consul, a charming man by the 
name of Matusinski, and when he heard our plight, he placed his car 
and chauffeur at our disposal. We arranged for the chauffeur to 
pick us up at ten the next morning, and drive us to a farm about 
twenty miles from Kiev. 

Our trip had certain dramatic features. First of all, we succeeded 


in eluding our G.P.U. men. We were wandering along near the 
hotel looking into the shop windows when the Polish car came by, 
and we hailed it in the middle of the street. When we got out on a 
deserted country road we looked back to find two police cars fol- 
lowing us; but the chauffeurs were alone. We had left so quickly 
that our G.P.U. men, who had been hanging about in the hotel lobby 
(thinking we must make our arrangements through the porter), had 
missed the bus. 

It was good to get into the country; the landscape, with its white 
plains and its bright blue cottages glistening in the sunshine, looked 
like a painting from another century. Peasant women with thick 
shawls wrapped around their heads trudged along the road pulling 
crude, home-made sledges stacked with wood and straw; once, a 
horse-drawn sleigh came dashing past us, the driver's face half 
smothered in an enormous fur cap. But soon we came upon a column 
of soldiers dragging some field guns, and the slosh of their boots in 
the snow and the roll of the artillery wheels jerked us back to the 
grim reality of 1939. According to Frank the soldiers were members 
of the 44th Ukrainian Division a division I was to see more of in 
Finland. They were husky, clean-shaven men and their high boots 
and long thick coats offered a striking contrast to the shabby appear- 
ance of the peasants. 

As we drove along, the countryside became more and more de- 
serted, but we jounced through snow and mud, across incredible 
roads; over one particularly nasty bit we look back to see both our 
police cars stuck in a snowdrift. We whooped with delight at this 
piece of luck and a mile or so farther on reached our collective farm 

A more desolate sight would be hard to imagine. It was a small 
village of perhaps two dozen cottages on either side of a narrow lane; 
and the lane was a sea of mud. The fences in front of the cottages 
were sagging, the walls dilapidated and the roofs in a bad state of 
repair. There was not a soul to be seen. 

"Now that we're here, what do we do?" asked Frank. 

"We're going in to talk to the people. And you must do the in- 

"But we can't just burst into people's houses! " 


"Why not? We'll never be lucky enough to escape from the 
G.P.U. again." 

"Good Lord!" said Frank. "Before we're through with this trip, 
I'll be the journalist and you'll be the military attache." 

We walked through mud that oozed up over our boots, pushed 
our way through a rickety gate and walked round to the back of 
the cottage. We banged on the door and a few minutes later a 
frightened-looking woman opened it. She might have been any age. 
She had wispy, blondish-grey hair that hung in strands about her 
face, red hands and a dirty smock. She stared at us in bewilderment. 
Frank explained we were Americans who were making a trip 
through Russia, but the words seemed to make no impression, for 
she just stood there gazing at us dumbly. We asked her if we could 
come in and she moved aside and opened the door. The cottage con- 
sisted of two rooms: the floors and walls were bare and the only 
furniture was three stools, a cupboard and a table. In one corner of 
the room was a large porcelain stove; two babies, bundled up in 
cloth, were sleeping on top of it. 

Conversation was difficult as the woman didn't talk, but just kept 
staring at us. We asked her what conditions were like and if she 
had plenty of food. 

Her face brightened at this. "Oh yes," she replied. "We have 
bread." She hurried over to the table, lifted a cloth, and showed us 
a plate of black bread. As far as we could see there was no other 
food in the house. We left with her still staring after us and walked 
down the road to another cottage. 

This was a more lively affair, for inside we found a family of 
eleven people, ranging from a grandmother to a child of four. The 
grandmother was a very old woman. She had a yellow, withered 
face, but a pair of incredibly bright eyes; it soon became apparent 
that she was still very much the matriarch of the household. She was 
tremendously excited at our arrival, dragged two stools from the 
corner, and, chuckling and bowing, told us to sit down. 

"What have you got in your hat?" she said, pointing at me. Frank 
said it was a veil. 

"But what's it for?" 

The difficulty of an explanation was avoided, for her attention 


suddenly shifted to my silk stockings. She knelt down and felt them. 
"Aren't you cold?" 

We asked her about conditions in the village and she nodded her 
head in satisfaction and gave us the same answer we had heard in 
the first cottage: there was bread. Then she chuckled and added 
there was vodka as well. 

The cottage was as bare of furniture as the first one. When we 
asked where everybody slept she pushed open the back door and 
pointed to a loft filled with hay. Near the door there were two 
ikons hanging on the wall. Frank commented on them. 

"I didn't think you kept those any more." 

The old woman laughed. "The younger people don't have them, 
but I like them. They're so bright." 

In the meanwhile, the rest of the family clustered round, the chil- 
dren staring at us with their fingers in their mouths. One of the boys 
suddenly darted into the next room and came back with a battered 
accordion. He squatted on the floor and began to play, while two of 
the girls clasped hands and did a little dance. The grandmother said 
something: one of them broke off, ran over to the cupboard and 
pulled out a dress. It was made of homespun cloth, painstakingly 
embroidered with flowers. She slipped into it, her sister did the 
buttons up, and then resumed the dance. 

When we were ready to leave, the grandmother called our atten- 
tion to a small faded snapshot tacked on the wall. She said it was a 
picture of herself taken many years ago, then pointed to Frank's 
camera and remarked how wonderful it would be to have a new one. 
We suggested a family group and at this the cottage went into an 
uproar. The boys knelt down to clean their shoes, the girls began 
to smooth their hair, and the mother wiped her children's faces. 
Finally, they lined up outside the cottage, their expressions tense and 
nervous. When the camera clicked a sigh of relief swept through the 
group. They surged forward while we wrote down their address, 
then one by one shook hands and said good-bye. 

When we reached the car again we discovered that news of our 
arrival had spread through the village. All along the lane neighbours 
were hanging over their fences discussing the event. Our Polish 
chauffeur told us the police cars had just arrived, and the drivers 


were reporting us to the farm director. He advised us to pay our 
respects immediately. 

The director's headquarters were in a large cottage, a few yards 
back from the lane, known as an "agitation point." We walked in to 
find him in conversation with a uniformed militia man. Both of them 
gave us hostile looks and demanded our papers. But Frank's diplo- 
matic passport evidently made an impression, for after questioning 
us for ten or fifteen minutes, they finally let us go. 

On the way home we looked back and saw the police cars follow- 
ing us; this time they each contained three G.P.U. men. Where they 
all came from still remains a Soviet mystery. 

Before we left Kiev we said good-bye to Mr. Matusinski, the 
Polish Consul, who had been so kind to us. Six months later, when 
the Russians marched into Poland, he was called out of his bed at 
midnight, and taken to police headquarters for questioning. What 
sort of a third degree he was put through no one knows, for he was 
never seen again. When the Soviet authorities were questioned about 
this brutal act, they disclaimed any knowledge of his whereabouts 
and suggested that perhaps he had met with an "accident." They 
offered, ironically, to make a search for the body. 

In Odessa, Frank and I met two British sailors who had come into 
port on a cargo ship carrying oranges from Valencia. They were an 
amusing pair. The first mate was a tall, lumbering Lancashire man 
and the engineer a wiry little Cockney. We invited them to have 
supper with us, but when the bill came they drew large wads of 
roubles out of their pockets and insisted on paying. With the ex- 
change at twenty-five roubles to the pound Frank and I were aston- 
ished, but the engineer explained that the moment they stepped 
ashore Russians had begun bartering for their clothes. 

"A thousand roubles for my pants, five hundred for my coat and 
a hundred for my socks. If I hadn't thought I'd be arrested for in- 
decency Fd have stripped in the middle of the street. Instead, I went 


back to the ship and dug up all the old shirts and sweaters I could 
find, and now we're living like a couple of millionaires." 

"Yes. And you wouldn't believe how far these things will go." 
The first mate dug deeply into his pockets and drew out three 
oranges. "In this country they're as good as diamond bracelets/' he 
chortled. "You've no idea how fast you can get acquainted. Perhaps 
I shouldn't boast, but I've already had two proposals of marriage 
one from the girl at the restaurant and the other from the cook at 
the club." 

The engineer interrupted to explain that the girls were so anxious 
to get away from Russia, any foreigners would do. 

"Well, personal appearances count a little," insisted the first mate, 
slightly ruffled. 

The pair had had many hazardous experiences running the Spanish 
blockade; once their ship had been bombed and sunk in Barcelona 
harbour, but they had promptly signed up with the crew of another. 
There was little danger of their being converted to Communism, for 
although they had travelled to many out-of-the-way places, they 
seemed to regard Russia as the strangest of them all. 

"On the whole," said the first mate, "foreigners are a pretty loony 
lot. There's no stability about them, if you know what I mean. But 
as for this Russian system where you can win a girl with an orange, 
it's definitely queer" 

"At least, we're saving a lot of money," interrupted the engineer. 
"When we get back to Marseilles we can stock up on sweets for the 
kids in Barcelona." 

The Spanish War came to an end three months later, and I often 
wondered what happened to the pair. The first mate said when it 
was over he was going to buy a cottage in England and settle down; 
but I suppose both of them are still on the high seas this time run- 
ning the blockade of the German U-boats. 

Odessa was as desolate as Kiev, but it was warmer. The streets ran 
with mud, for the snow was melting, but in the country you could 
see the first signs of spring. The Intourist guides were more accom- 
modating than they had been in Kiev and arranged to take us to 


several factories and farms, but, unfortunately, our programme was 
upset by a final encounter with the G.P.U. 

When foreigners travel in Russia they must arrange their itinerary 
in advance and get special permits which are marked with the exact 
number of hours they wish to remain in each town. Although my 
visa for the Soviet Union didn't expire for another week, my pass 
for Odessa was stamped one day. Mr. Schmidt had told me if I 
wished to change my plans in any way, to notify the local police and 
they would make the proper readjustments. But when I applied for a 
forty-eight hours' extension for Odessa the authorities sent back my 
card with the reply that since Moscow had stamped it for one day, 
one day it must remain. The telephone lines were government-con- 
trolled, so we were unable to ring up the Foreign Office ourselves, 
but sent back a message asking the police to get in touch with Mr. 
Schmidt, who, we assured them, would straighten out the matter. 
But the police, smothered by the red tape of bureaucracy, had no 
intention of using any initiative. Back came the irritating comment 
that one day was one day. As Frank was travelling on a diplomatic 
pass, he was all right, but I was ordered to leave not later than eight 
in the morning. 

Frank telegraphed to Mr. Schmidt and Chip Bohlen although we 
had little chance of getting a reply in less than twenty-four hours 
and sent the police a second message saying that I flatly refused to 
leave. "That will show them they can't push us around as though 
we were Russians," he said angrily. 

That night we went to the local ballet and when we got back to 
the hotel the porter told us the police were waiting to see us. We 
went into the manager's room and found a strapping G.P.U. man 
in uniform. Frank painstakingly reexplained the situation, but the 
officer sat there shaking his head and stubbornly repeating: "One 
day is one day." 

"Now, look here," said Frank, "I've had about enough of the 
Soviet police force. If you want to straighten out the matter all you 
have to do is to lift the telephone and ring Moscow, but it's a waste 
of time ordering us about. If the lady doesn't want to leave she's 
not going to leave. Do you understand? Now, we'll ask her. You 
don't want to leave, do you? 


"No," I said weakly. 

"There! You heard her yourself. She doesn't want to leave. What 
are you going to do about it?" 

"She refuses to leave?" 


"That's final?" 


"Then she must be prepared for the consequences." 

The G.P.U. man gave me a menacing look and left the room. 

"You don't mind, do you?" said Frank. "We must keep the Stars 
and Stripes flying." 

"Yes," I agreed. "But not from the inside of a concentration 

I don't suppose anyone had ever talked to the G.P.U. like that 
before. In the hall we saw the manager whispering to one of the 
porters, evidently telling him about the episode; both were grinning 
from ear to ear. 

The next forty-eight hours in Odessa were slightly disconcerting, 
for although we had a telegram from Chip Bohlen saying he would 
do his best, we heard nothing from Mr. Schmidt. No further mes- 
sages came from the police, but each time we went out of the hotel 
I expected to arrive back to find a posse waiting for us. The day 
finally came for Frank to leave for Moscow and for me to leave for 
Roumania. The trip to the frontier town of Tiraspol was a three- 
hour journey, and, although Frank assured me I would be all right, 
I feared I might be intercepted on the way. 

On the train I noticed a plain-clothes man obviously following 
me. This was not out of the ordinary, but my heart sank when I 
reached Tiraspol and found the G.P.U. man that Frank had quar- 
relled with waiting for me in the customs house. He gave me a look 
that seemed filled with meaning, told me to leave my bags and iden- 
tification papers and to wait in the restaurant while he examined them. 

I sat down at a table and ordered some tea and a bun. Suddenly 
I looked up to see the plain-clothes man standing over me, a smile on 
his face. 

"I speak English," he said. 

I thought this was the prelude to an arrest, but he pulled up a chair 


and I discovered he was only seeking an opportunity to practise his 
English. In Russia, languages are evidently taught with an eye on 
propaganda, for although he spoke only pidgin-English his vocabu- 
lary was sufficient to express the party line. This is the conversation 
we had. 

"Russia good country. You English?" 

"No. American." 

"Unemployment in America?" 

"Yes. Some." (Not wishing to let the home team down.) 

"Bourgeois government." (Pause.) "Unemployment in England, 

"Yes. Some." 

"Bourgeois government." (Pause.) "Bourgeois government, always 
unemployment. In Russia, workers' government, no unemployment." 

I asked him if he considered Germany's government a bourgeois 
one, and he said that he did. 

"Well, they haven't any unemployment. How do you explain 

He lifted his hands in consternation. "Oh, mustn't talk about Ger- 
many. Germany very bad country. Many concentration camps." He 
shook his head gloomily, got up, bowed, and left. 

My worries were needless, for after an hour I was called back to 
the customs office and my papers and bags were politely handed 
back. Evidently Mr. Schmidt had intervened. Most surprising of all 
was the G.P.U. man, who shook my hand and bade me return to 
the Soviet Union again! 

I left on a musical comedy train. It was painted bright green with 
chintz curtains and flower-pots in the windows. It was used only to 
run back and forth across the frontier, and especially designed to 
impress the Roumanians. I was the only passenger on the train, and 
when we reached the frontier the guards got off and only the engi- 
neer and an assistant remained the Soviet Union trusted few of its 
people on foreign soil. 

Under ordinary circumstances, Tighina would probably seem a 
drab little town, but on that particular afternoon it had a glamour 
all its own. Everything was so bright; the bowls of fruit in the restau- 
rant; the waitress' green ear-rings; the red ribbon round the cat's 


neck; the gaudy photograph of King Carol on the wall; the blue and 
white check table-cloth. The windows were shining, the floors were 
clean, and everybody looked plump and cheerful. The Kremlin was 
a long way off. 

On the way back to England I travelled across Roumania, Poland, 
Germany, Belgium and France. During that long trip I thought a 
good deal about the misery and inhumanity I had seen under totali- 
tarian regimes. I had seen the extremists on both sides of the war in 
Spain; I had seen Nazism in Germany, Communism in Russia. And I 
knew more than ever that I believed in democracy. 

In America I had believed in democracy because I had been 
taught to, but now I believed in it because I had learned what it 
meant. It meant the right of the majority to rule and the right of the 
minority to exist. This last seemed to me the most important of all, 
for wherever the minority has the right to exist, men can think and 
speak according to their conscience. 

I had heard people argue that "freedom of speech" was a misused 
privilege; that on the whole it was a small deprivation to be forbidden 
to criticize the government. But "the government" was not an 
abstract term. The government was the clothes you wore; the 
cigarettes you smoked; the food you ate; the schools you went to; 
the books you read; the streets you walked along. It conditioned 
your thoughts and fashioned your ambitions. When you surrendered 
your right to oppose the government, you surrendered your right 
to live as a human being. 

I had also heard it argued that the mass of people were not fit to 
guide their own destiny and it was therefore proper for the State 
to be unobstructed in directing the lives of their people for the com- 
mon good. Those words "the State" were always misleading. The 
State was a group of men. And I knew I didn't believe any group of 
men infallible enough to be awarded powers that could not be 
checked. The totalitarian regimes boasted of the swiftness of their 
administration; when they plunged into war, I thought, that would 
be swift, too. 

War seemed a certainty, and I knew the forces gathering to oppose 


each other were not merely the forces of Imperialism. It was man 
versus the ant-heap. As an American, I might be neutral; but as a 
human being, it was already my fight. 

It didn't take long to become re-acclimated to the electric atmos- 
phere of the continent. I spent only twelve hours in Berlin, dined 
with Charlie Post, an American business man, and took the night 
express to London. About midnight I was awakened by the shuffle 
of footsteps and the sound of voices. The door of my compartment 
was flung open and three Nazi storm troopers walked in. One of 
them addressed me in English and said he would have to search my 
bags. But first he asked me the name of the man who had taken me 
to the station. I told him and he shook his head. 

"He was not an American. He was a Russian. You were speaking 
Russian to him on the station platform." 

I told him I couldn't speak a word of Russian, but he smiled un- 
believingly, and proceeded to rip my suitcases to pieces. 

I don't know yet what they were searching for. The porter told 
me later they had also questioned him, asking if he had overheard 
me speaking Russian. They said they had been ordered to make the 
search by their headquarters in Berlin. It was four weeks before the 
Germans marched into Prague, and I can only imagine that, with the 
move impending, there were instructions to watch all foreigners 
closely; the fact that I had been travelling through the Ukraine, Rou- 
mania and Poland territory regarded as "German spheres of inter- 
est" might have led them to suspect me of being a spy. 

Whatever the explanation, they pulled everything out of my suit- 
cases until the compartment looked as though a tornado had hit it. 
They pounced on the Marxist literature I had. "Ach so! You are a 
member of the Communist party?" 

They wrote down the titles of the books but to my surprise re- 
turned them, and told me that at the next stop a woman would board 
the train to search the bed. The leader of the group evidently had 
orders to remain in the compartment lest I hide anything, for he 
leaned against the wall and lighted a cigarette. He was a good-look- 
ing young man, not more than twenty-five years old, but with the 


arrogant manner and swagger his uniform suggested. His voice rang 
through the quiet sleeping-car. 

"So you are on your way to England. Well, you tell Mr. Chamber- 
Iain from us that if he tries to block our way in Europe any longer" 
(Mr. Chamberlain was at this time predicting a golden era of peace) 
"he'll have a war on his hands. We don't want a war but we'll fight. 
We aren't going to sit back taking orders from anybody. Germany 
is too big to be strangled." 

"Where do you want to go?" 

"Oh, I don't know. But somewhere. We need more room." 

"What about the Ukraine?" 

"What's it like there?" 

I described it and he suddenly grinned. "I don't think you're a 
Communist, after all. It would be a fine country for Germany, 
wouldn't it? It would give us all the things we need. But personally, 
I would like to have a farm in Africa." His tone became almost con- 
fiding. "I'm tired of my job here. I would like to take my wife to 
Africa, where it's nice and warm, and have a cottage with some 
chickens. The English don't pay any attention to their colonies, but 
we would take trouble over them. And we deserve them. We're a 
nation of eighty million people." 

He elaborated this theme for some time. The more he talked the 
more genial he became. When the customs woman came aboard he 
evidently told her to cut the search short, for she only half pulled 
back the bedclothes, looked beneath the pillow, then bowed apolo- 
getically and left. 

The storm strooper came back into the compartment, said perhaps 
he would run into me on the train again one day, heiled Hitler, and 

I drew a sigh of relief and took out my passport. Eagles look the 
same the world over, but the one stamped on the cover was a tough 
old bird. Tougher, I thought, than the German eagle. At least, so far. 

Part Six 



Chapter 1 



That date will go down in history as the date when England woke 
up. Sugar umbrellas disappeared from shop windows and Mr. Cham- 
berlain asked angrily: "Is this an attempt to dominate the world by 

But it was the fact that Hitler had violated his solemn declaration 
of only six months before, in which he had asserted that the Czech 
State would hold no interest for him after the Sudeten German 
problem was settled, that shocked English people the most. The vil- 
lage pubs resounded with the single damning phrase: "Hitler's broke 
his word." And that was the end of English tolerance. From then 
on the nation prepared for war. Soon armoured trucks began 
rumbling through the countryside, housewives turned on the radio 
to hear the latest news bulletin, National Service placards began 
to appear and large yellow posters said: "Join the Balloon Barrage." 
The British Government slapped down guarantees on Poland, Greece 
and Roumania and introduced conscription. Even Mrs. Sullivan 
became politically-minded and summed up the psychology of the 
country with the remark: "My old man says now as we can't trust 
'Itler any more there's no use arguing with him; now we've got to 
give 'im a licking." 

Many foreign observers did not understand the change that had 
swept the country. Some had associated the policy of appeasement 
with a "ruling class" of England, which, they claimed, had grown 
so effete that it was willing to drive a bargain with Nazi Germany 
to preserve peace (and property) at any cost. Others accused Cham- 



berlain of Fascist tendencies, claiming that his supporters were 
pro-German. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Eng- 
lishmen are first and foremost "pro" their own country. Many 
people had been genuinely taken in by Germany's well-publicized 
grievances; they had sympathized with the German occupation of 
the Rhine-land, with the Austrian Anschluss, and even with the 
claim for Sudetenland on the grounds that German population had 
shown an overwhelming desire to become incorporated in the Reich. 
There was a case to be argued for all three of these developments. 
But there was no case to be argued for a man who demanded the 
principle of self-determination and, six months later, violated that 
very same principle by the brutal destruction of the Czech State. 

From that date England's unanimous verdict was Guilty. From 
that dat$ the policy of appeasement was dead. 

I had been very happy in London. Not only because I was inter- 
ested in the political life, but because I had grown to have a deep 
admiration for many of the people I'd come to know. Most of them 
were members of the much-criticized "ruling class." The better I 
knew them the more I was impressed by their regard for justice, and 
their granite-like quality of loyalty and integrity. Many could be 
accused of stupidity, but none of dishonesty. 

England is a puzzling nation. As John Gunther has pointed out, it 
is at one and the same time, "the world's strongest oligarchy and 
freest democracy." This oligarchy is one of the phenomena of the 
civilized world. The old school tie has been the butt of many jokes, 
but in history you will find that the tradition it embodies has led 
England during her most enlightened periods and fortified her in 
months of peril. 

To explain the tradition one must examine the structure of the 
oligarchy or "ruling class." Drawn from the public schools (private 
schools in the American sense) which educate the sons of the aristoc- 
racy and the upper middle-class families, it supplies the country 
with the bulk of its statesmen, civil servants, diplomats, army and 
navy officers and county squires; in other words, the leaders of the 


But the interesting feature of the oligarchy is its elasticity. It is by 
no means a rigid caste. The British aristocracy, unlike any other 
aristocracy in the world, is constantly refurbished by new blood. 
Every year men who have distinguished themselves in business, sci- 
ence, medicine, politics, in the arts or in the fighting services, are 
elevated to the peerage. Thus the best brains of the country are 
lassoed into the service of the nation. Unlike America, where the 
public life of successful business men is confined for the most part 
to lending their names to philanthropic institutions, in England they 
are given an opportunity to take a responsible part in the life of the 
nation. (A notable example is Rufus Isaacs later Lord Reading 
who went to India the first time as cabin boy, the second time as 
Viceroy.) As members of the House of Lords, they can make their 
views known and bring an influence to bear on the events of the day; 
they are eligible for membership in the Cabinet; present-day illustra- 
tions are Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Woolton. 

Admission to the ruling class is achieved not only by way of the 
peerage. The Tory party keeps a wary look-out for new ability 
which might reinforce the ranks of the Opposition; let any really 
able champion of the Left arise, and the doors of the oligarchy swing 
open. (For example: Ramsay MacDonald.) But all those who enter 
the ranks, whether by way of the public school or by outstanding 
merit, are bound together by the old school tie tradition. 

This tradition is not, as many Americans imagine, preserved by a 
snobbish group which takes delight in singing sentimental songs about 
their lost youth and sworn to "stick together" at any cost. Eton, for 
example, which supplies England with seventy-five per cent, of its 
ruling class, offers no tangible evidence of a "fraternity." It is a 
curious but important paradox that Old Etonians seldom wear Old 
Etonian ties, never have re-union dinners, and rarely refer to their 
school except in anecdotes directed either at the sanitary arrange- 
ments or the stupidity of their masters. This extraordinary free- 
masonry which admits no symbols, tolerates no pass-words, and 
ignores the usual paraphernalia of the exclusive society, is bound to- 
gether by an intangible code of ethics a code unwritten, unmen- 
tioned, but understood and accepted by all. 

This code is the fibre of England. Public school boys are educated 


to be the future leaders of the Empire and from an early age are 
taught to assume responsibility. But more important, they are im- 
pressed with a sense of noblesse oblige. They must set the standard 
for the nation; in peacetime, their honour must be unassailable; and 
in wartime, their courage unquestionable. 

In America and France the men of the highest ability and educa- 
tion go into business, for the most part, and leave politics to the 
professional men; as a result, self-interest often comes before public 
interest; graft is accepted as the rule rather than the exception and 
politics are generally regarded as a "dirty" trade. But in England, 
since the cream of the country serves the country, the standard is the 
highest and government departments are incorruptible. As an Ameri- 
can I had become so accustomed to the fact that one always regarded 
politicians sceptically, that I was astonished on my first trip through 
England to hear the confidence with which the ordinary people 
referred to the Government. When I drove through the North with 
Martha Gellhorn, we were assured over and over again that what- 
ever the outcome the Government was "doing its best" and that 
the Government was "the best Government in the world." Now this 
is the last sort of remark you would hear either in America or France. 

The governing class in England has not maintained its position 
without justification. On the whole, its policies have been enlightened 
and far-sighted. In 1906 it passed a vast programme of reforms, in- 
itiated by Lloyd George, ranging from Old Age Pensions and Work- 
men's Compensation to Town Planning and Unemployment and 
Health Insurance, which were not introduced in America until 
nearly thirty years later by Roosevelt's New Deal and even then 
were considered "radical" by many Americans. 

And in 1911 the King himself became the champion of democracy 
by compelling the House of Lords to pass the Lloyd George Budget 
(stripping the Lords of monetary powers) by threatening to create 
a bloc of peers to form the necessary majority. Throughout English 
history you find violent social changes taking place, but always with 
the equilibrium of the nation being maintained, like a see-saw that 
rights itself, largely through the moral force of the 'old school tie.' 

But the most outstanding virtue of this class, in my opinion, is its 
incorruptibility. Because this quality is known and accepted^ the Eng- 


lish people have a deep-rooted faith in their leaders and support them 
with, at times, almost surprising loyalty. When, on March i5th, 
Chamberlain's policy of appeasement was shattered into a thousand 
pieces, the country did not turn against him but commended him 
for having done his best. "If Mr. Chamberlain can't keep us out of 
war, no one can," was the verdict. 

This English quality of loyalty (which can exist only in a country 
where the people have respect for their leaders and the leaders have 
respect for each other) was further illustrated when Winston 
Churchill became Prime Minister the following year. He allowed 
Chamberlain and Halifax to remain in office; and some months later 
appointed David Margesson (who, as Chief Whip, was the man most 
responsible for having kept him in the wilderness) to the War Min- 
istry on the grounds that if Margesson had been efficient enough 
to keep him out of the Cabinet he must be a very efficient man in- 
deed. No wonder England is difficult to understand. 

Of one thing I am sure: you will never understand it unless you 
accept idealism as a force in the shaping of British policy. A diplo- 
mat once made the remark: "England is the most dangerous country 
in the world because it is the only one capable of going to war on 
behalf of another country." 

Now British self-interest happens to coincide neatly with British 
idealism; the absence of tyranny on the continent and the freedom 
and independence of small States. But that does not mean the idealism 
is artificial. You can attribute wide and varying motives to any single 
act or policy; but on the whole you will come closer to understand- 
ing England if you make a practice of giving her the benefit of the 
doubt. If you don't, and you try to interpret her policies solely in 
the light of self-interest, you will go badly astray. 

March ijth was an illustration of this. Cynics were bewildered 
by the sudden swing-over. When Chamberlain signed the Munich 
agreement they took it to mean that Great Britain had washed her 
hands of Europe and surrendered her long overlordship. They failed 
to understand that the Chamberlain Government was not compro- 
mising from fear, but in a genuine belief in Germany's capacity to 
prove herself a good neighbour. 

Look at Germany's position in the five and a half months be- 


twcen Munich and the occupation of Prague. Hitler's prestige was 
enormous and National Socialism was gathering more and more 
adherents every day among people discouraged by what they called 
"the cumbersome and old-fashioned methods" of Democracy. British 
and French statesmen were only too eager to open conversations with 
Hitler and find a new design for Europe, to take the place of the 
League of Nations. In fact, only a few days before March 1 5th, Sir 
Nevile Henderson, the British Ambassador, asked Hitler to submit 
for negotiation any problems, which still stood between him and 
complete understanding with Great Britain. And Oliver Stanley, the 
Minister of the Board of Trade, was scheduled to go to Berlin on 
March i6th to discuss plans for a new trade agreement. 

Without war, Hitler had become the most dominant figure in 
Europe. If he had chosen to exercise his great position in the interests 
of peace there might indeed have been a golden era. So much lay 
within his grasp that many of the most hard-boiled foreign observers 
couldn't believe he would deliberately choose to fashion the future 
with the sword. On every side one heard the gloomy prophesy that 
France and Great Britain were already dwindling away under the 
great new force; that Hitler no longer needed a war to get the mas- 
tery he wanted. 

Logically, they were right. Hitler didn't need to employ violence; 
but he took a short cut, failing to heed the moral issue. With Munich, 
Czechoslovakia had become his vassal. The physical occupation of 
Prague in no way detracted from Great Britain's position; what it 
did do was to shatter the Chamberlain Government's belief in Ger- 
many. Forty-five million people in England were shocked by the 
crime. That was the cause of the awakening. 

That spring I went to America for several weeks to see my family. 
New York was lively and refreshing, but the problems uppermost in 
people's minds (mostly New Deal versus Republicanism) seemed so 
far removed from the tide of world events, that it was almost with 
a feeling of relief that I came back to England again. It was July now 
and the London season was in full swing. The hotels were overflow- 
ing with tourists, and there was a fever of entertaining parties, balls, 


country houses with the doors wide open. Everyone seemed deter- 
mined to squeeze in the last ounce of fun before the war started. 
Politics were discussed less than at any time during the last two years. 
The die was cast. If Germany attacked Poland, England would fight; 
there was nothing left to argue about. Everyone made plans for the 
summer holidays casually, as though there were no crisis at all. In 
August I went off to Rome to see if I could get an interview with 

Before I left, Randolph took me down to Chartwell for tea. It was 
beautiful there, with the wind blowing through the grass and the 
sun streaming down on the flowers and this time the pond actually 
had some goldfish in it. Once again I found Mr. Churchill in his torn 
coat and battered hat peering into the water, fascinated. After tea, 
he took me upstairs and showed me the high, oak-beamed study 
where he did all his writing. He was working on a three-volume 
history of the English-speaking peoples and over half of it was 
already completed. "But I'll never be able to finish it before the war 
begins," he remarked gloomily. 

When it came, he said he was going to close the big house and 
move into the cottage. 

"You won't be living there," said Randolph indignantly. "You'll 
be at No. 10 Downing Street." 

"I'm afraid I haven't got the same fanciful ideas that you have." 

"Well, at any rate, you'll be in the Cabinet." 

"Things will have to get pretty bad before that happens." 

They did. The next time I saw him he was the First Lord of the 


Chapter II 



in the air, gradually stifling energy until people move about more 
and more slowly like toys that are running down. The Piazza Co- 
lonna, usually one of the capital's busiest squares, lay beneath the full 
glare of the sun and on this particular day was almost deserted. Occa- 
sionally a horse and carriage clattered over the cobble-stones, the 
driver mopping his brow, too hot even to crack his whip, but that 
was all. 

I crossed the square and went into a cafe to read the day-old Times 
which had just arrived. The German press attack on Poland had 
begun and the news from Berlin was exactly the same as the year 
before, only this time you substituted the word Poland for Czecho- 
slovakia. The Italian waiter knew English and made several attempts 
to read over my shoulder. Then he came out into the open, apolo- 
getically: "Is there any news? Here in Rome it's sometimes difficult 
to know what's going on." 

I told him the German press attack on Poland was increasing. 

"Oh, we know all about that. But real news," he said anxiously. 
"Is there going to be a war?" 

I replied that if the Germans invaded Poland I was certain England 
and France would fight and asked him what he thought the Italians 
would do. 

"Heaven knows. We don't want a war least of all fighting with 
the Germans. I was wounded in the last war fighting against the 
Germans. I can't forget that. At heart, most of us are for the English 
and French." 

I was surprised by his outspokenness. I don't know whether or 



not he reflected the general opinion of the moment, but his remarks 
certainly showed a change of heart from the Rome I had known 
another August four years before. 

August is always Rome's dead season; but in 1935 the ghost of 
war was walking and the air was tense with apprehension. Then, 
the cafes on the Piazza Colonna were crowded. Heads were bent 
over newspapers and every now and then you overheard excited 
snatches of conversation on potential British air raids, key positions 
in the Mediterranean, Italian land defence. I remembered the book- 
shops along the Piazza plastered with photographs of Abyssinia; 
the soldiers ready to embark for Africa, strolling through the streets 
with boots laced halfway up their legs and strange-looking brown 
caps that pulled down over their faces as protection against the desert 
sands; the cinemas that advertised films on the horrors of Ethiopia. 
The films always ended with pictures of the Italian Army flashes 
of marching feet, tanks, aeroplanes, warships, then Mussolini, strong 
and dynamic, addressing his people. I remembered the excited ap- 
plause he got. 

On October 3rd the Abyssinian invasion began, and on October 
6th the League of Nations declared sanctions against Italy. The 
following week I interviewed Mussolini. 

It was the first interview I had ever had with an important states- 
man. The capital was overflowing with experienced journalists 
trying to see the Duce, and it never occurred to me that I had any 
chance at all. Certainly I was unqualified for it. I had come to Rome 
to write a few descriptive stories for the Hearst papers, but my 
knowledge of foreign affairs was negligible. One night at dinner, 
however, I happened to meet Dino Alfiero, the Minister of Propa- 
ganda, who told me that he, and he alone, had the authority to 
control the interviews Mussolini gave to the foreign press. I begged 
him to arrange for me to have one, but never expected he would. 
When he rang up the next morning and said Mussolini would see 
me at six o'clock in the evening, I was appalled. He added that I 
could have no written questions and the conversation must be 'off 
the record.' 

I hadn't the faintest idea how one went about an interview and 
had a ghastly premonition I would find myself tongue-tied. I was 


so nervous I couldn't eat any lunch and all afternoon racked my 
brain for the proper questions to ask. As the hour approached, I 
grew more and more unhappy. It was dark and rainy, and as I drove 
to the Piazza Venezia the automobile lights flashing on the wet pave- 
ment and the sound of the wind seemed to lend an eerie emphasis 
to the occasion. The fact that I was to talk with the Napoleon of 
the day, at a moment when he challenged the peace of the entire 
world, seemed to me stupendous. 

I walked into the Palazzo, past two Blackshirt guards with rifles, 
and presented my card of admission to the attendant. He led the 
way Up a long, curving, marble staircase, through an iron framework 
door, and down the length of two rooms rooms decorated with 
early Renaissance paintings and furniture; rooms not only alive with 
the forces of Fascism, but rooms that breathed the air of 1455, when 
the palace was built by a handsome young cardinal from the Vene- 
tian Republic who wanted a residence from which he could watch 
the horse-races on the Corso. 

I was shown into a small reception alcove and told to wait. The 
silence of the vast, empty rooms around me was broken now and 
then by the echoing whispers of attendants, the soft mysterious sound 
of bells. Every now and then uniformed men passed by and gave 
me the Fascist greeting. After a wait that seemed interminable, aii 
attendant in a black swallow-tail coat announced the Duce was ready 
to see me. He led me into a huge room with a high lofty ceiling. 
At the end, far, far away, was a desk with a man behind it. I walked 
towards him, my heels clicking loudly on the marble floor. Not 
until I had gone three-quarters of the way did he look up. Then he 
rose from his seat. 

Never shall I forget my first impression. Instead of the solemn 
black-uniformed dictator, a small stocky man in a light grey suit 
and a pair of brown and white sports shoes bounced forward to 
meet me. A word unassociated with the strong man of the masses 
flashed through my mind: dapper. He gripped my hand, flashed a 
mechanical smile and went back to his seat behind the desk. He 
walked with a peculiar strutting step his head back and his chest 
thrown out as though half his body was too large for the rest 
of him. 


I soon realized that my worries lest the conversation lag had been 
needless ones. He fixed his eyes on me menacingly, leaned across 
the desk and pointed a pencil at me, angrily* 

"Do you think Fm a despot?" he rasped. 

"Oh no," I said weakly. 

"Do you think my people admire me?" 

"Oh yes." 

"Do you think I have led them to war against their will?* 

"Oh no." 

"Do you think they believe in their cause?" 

"Oh yes." 

"Well, then, go home and tell the people of America that. Go 
home and tell them I'm not the tyrant their papers make out. Go 
home and tell them that the Italian nation has a right to a place in 
the sun. That England and all her hypocritical statesmen can't bluff 
Italy out of her just demands. That Italy is a great Power and as a 
great Power she fears no one!" 

Here he banged the table. Then for the next ten minutes I was 
subjected to an angry tirade (in fluent but ungrammatical English) 
on the strength of Fascist Italy, the treachery of England, and the 
supreme idiocy of the League of Nations. I had the impression that 
his intimidating manner was all part of an act the way he kept 
his huge eyes riveted on me, the way he waved his pencil and struck 
the table to illustrate his points. Instead of wondering what to say 
I began to fear the interview would be over before I'd had an oppor- 
tunity to ask a single question. I finally decided to chance an inter- 

"Could I ask Your Excellency a question? If you dislike the 
League of Nations, why do you remain a member?" 

Mussolini had been regarding me fiercely, but suddenly his manner 

"Because Fm a very clever man," he replied almost coyly. "Politics 
is a difficult game and the way I'm playing it is my best chance to 
win. It's not easy. I'm at war with fifty-two nations." 

He stumbled over the words "fifty-two," and to make sure that 
I hadn't misunderstood, jotted the figures down on a scrap of paper 
and held them up. "Cinquanta-due" he repeated. 


l( Do you think you can beat fifty-two nations?" 

"I don't know," he smiled, still almost coyly. "But I'll try. If the 
English have a right to an African Empire, we have a right to an 
African Empire. The Mediterranean is more our sea than theirs. 
My people understand and they are with me. You have seen the 
reception they give me?" 

I told him that I had seen the crowds in the Piazza Venezia a few 
weeks before when he had given the signal that had started the war 
in Abyssinia. 

"Good. Very, very good." 

I never knew whether he was referring to his speech or the fact 
that I had heard it, for he suddenly jumped up and I saw that the 
interview had come to an end. He walked down the length of the 
room with me, shook hands and the door closed. 

I had not been impressed. Mussolini's personality was too aggres- 
sive and flamboyant for my taste, and his arguments against England 
and the League so exaggerated they had failed to be convincing. 
But most of all I resented being told what to do. My reaction to 
his command to go home and tell the American people this, that 
and the other thing, was: "You can tell the Italians what to do, but, 
thank God, you can't tell me!" 

Although many people supported Mussolini's case, there was 
very little logic about it. He was trying to justify Italy's attack 
on Abyssinia on the grounds that the latter was not fit for League 
membership; yet it was Italy, and Italy alone, who had urged Abys- 
sinia's inclusion in the League of Nations against Great Britain's 
repeated advice. Mussolini had been hailed as a great man for having 
raised the standard of living in Italy (you still hear him praised for 
this), but conveniently ignored was the fact he had achieved it by 
such artificial means that from now on the nation must expand or 
burst. That is the great thing to remember about Fascism. It always 
lives above its income, relying on the scheme that when its capital 
is exhausted it can steal someone else's money to keep the account 

When I described Mussolini in an article, published in the Hearst 
papers, I said that if he had been born in a past era his fierce patriot- 
ism and intolerant ambitions undoubtedly would have carved him a 
great Empire. "These qualities/' I wrote, "were virtues yesterday, 


but are they to-day? Mussolini rides a high wave. I wonder whether 
its thunder will echo victory or catastrophe." 
Well, I needn't wonder any longer. 

Italo Balbo, the Air Marshal of Italy, was a very different type 
from Mussolini. On October 6th, the day the League of Nations 
voted sanctions against Italy, I flew to Libya and spent a few days 
in Tripoli. Needless to say, the situation was strained. The British 
Fleet was concentrated in the Mediterranean and when we reached 
Sicily our pilot announced we wouldn't make the usual stop at 
Malta. Instead, when we neared Malta, the plane swooped down and 
cruised around for half an hour, while the wireless operator picked 
up the numbers on several British ships and radioed them back to 

Tripoli was thronged with troops; there was the khaki of the 
colonial troops, the red sashes and fezes of the Arab soldiers and 
the grey-green of the Italian regiments. Along the main streets hun- 
dreds of Italian flags waved their red and green colours against 
tropical buildings, so white in the dazzling sunshine they almost 
hurt your eyes. 

I had known one of Balbo's secretaries in Paris; and the night I 
arrived was invited to dinner at His Excellency's house an exotic 
Moorish villa overlooking the sea. There were several army generals 
at dinner and in spite of the tense situation everyone appeared to be 
in high spirits. Balbo was a man with a rough, easy-going charm, 
a quick sense of humour, and was obviously adored by his followers. 
I remember noticing that, unlike most Fascist leaders, Balbo had no 
picture of Mussolini in the house. There were only pictures of the 
King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Princess. When I asked 
Balbo how he liked Libya he replied with a shrug of his shoulders: 
"// faut Faimer. Je suis un prisonnier id." I don't know whether 
or not this was wholly true. Balbo's life was agreeable and his job 
important; I suspect he rather liked to dramatize himself. 

After dinner, the guests went out in the courtyard while Balbo 
gave an exhibition of night shooting, his favourite sport. With a 
rifle pointed towards the dark sky, he took pot shots at stray birds 
that fluttered over head, half distinguishable in the moonlight. The 


performance struck a comic note for although he failed to hit any- 
thing, his generals and officers stood behind him praising him and 
telling him what a wonderful shot he was. And behind them stood 
two huge black servants, one with a towel and one with a basin 
of water, for him to wash his hands when he had finished. These 
trusted servants were both Abyssinians. 

One afternoon Balbo took me flying. I had always imagined that 
flying with the Air Marshal of Italy, the man who had led a squadron 
of Italian planes across the Atlantic and back again, would be a 
memorable experience. It was, but not exactly as I'd imagined. He 
took me up in a two-seater Berda, which was so old it could scarcely 
get off the ground. Once in the air the engine shook so violently 
I was sure the wings would fall off. The wind whistled through 
the cockpit, the machine bumped up and down uncertainly, and 
Balbo kept shouting, "Magnifique, rfest-ce pas?" 

The only thing that was magnificent was the view. As we rose 
in the air the Arab mosques turned into tennis balls and the village 
looked like an assortment of square white candy boxes. On one side 
there was the majestic sweep of the Mediterranean, and on the other 
the long white stretch of desert; in the west the sky was pink with 
a fading sun, and in the east a red moon had begun to show its 
shadow. Balbo suggested doing a few stunts for my benefit, but I 
managed to restrain him by inventing a weak heart. When I felt 
my feet on terra firma again I drew a breath of relief. 

On looking back, those few days were an extraordinary interlude. 
Although the Italian "crisis" was holding the world breathless, Balbo 
and his generals didn't seem in the least alarmed by the possibility 
of war. They didn't even appear to have much to do. In fact, Balbo 
suggested that I take a couple of days' holiday and fly down to 
Gadames with him a fascinating Arab village several hundred miles 
from the coast. Nothing would have induced me to get into the same 
plane with the Air Marshal again, and I told him I was sorry but 
I had to return to Rome. He argued for some time then shook his 
head sadly: "I know. The trouble is, you don't like my beard.' 1 

There the matter rested. 


It was so hot in the Colonna Gate, in spite of the heavy striped 
awnings and the electric fans, I went back to the hotel. Before I 
left, the Italian waiter said: "If we were to take our own papers 
seriously, it would mean war to-morrow. But I don't believe it. 
Mussolini has a good head on his shoulders. I think he'll keep us 
out of it." 

Many other people in Rome seemed to have the same faith. Al- 
though over a million and a half men had been called to arms and 
the newspaper headlines screamed startling developments, the capital 
showed little sign of alarm. You found the usual peaceful life: car- 
riages moving slowly through the streets, people taking their after- 
noon siestas along the banks of the Tiber, cafe life as leisurely as 
ever. There was not even a rush for newspapers. 

Italians in every walk of life went out of their way to demon- 
strate their friendship to English and American visitors, and for the 
first time I heard the Fascist regime criticized openly. A favourite 
joke that summer was the man who went up to the cab-driver and 
said: "Are you free?" "Of course not," came the reply. "I'm an 

But more curious than the general unconcern was the lack of 
military preparation. In spite of the mobilization, no precautions 
were being taken against air attacks; the only marked activity was 
the energetic wave of building for the 1942 World Fair. 

I had struck Rome at a bad week even the officials I wanted to 
see were away so I went down to Capri to spend a few days with 
Mona and Harrison Williams. It was heavenly there, swimming 
and lying in the sun all day, but I hadn't been away long before the 
crisis took a new turn. Ciano had gone to Berchtesgaden to confer 
with Hitler and there were already rumors that the date for the war 
had been fixed. I returned to Rome on the same morning that Ciano 
returned from Germany, and the following day had lunch with 
him at Ostia. 

It was so hot in Rome no one worked in the middle of the day. 
At one o'clock everyone who could drove to the seaside, a few miles 
from Rome, and went swimming, returning to work about four 
o'clock. Prince and Princess del Drago invited me to go with them 
and we joined Ciano for lunch on the beach. 


Ciano was good-looking, spoke perfect English, and was an ani- 
mated and amusing conversationalist. But he had an air of unbe- 
lievable arrogance; you felt all the time that he was trying to imitate 
his father-in-law, even to the way he threw out his chest and strutted 
when he walked. Although I was longing to find out what had 
taken place at Berchtesgaden (the conversation was still a matter 
of the greatest secrecy) I didn't raise the subject hoping that Italian 
indiscretion would give me an inkling of what had happened. Ciano 
guessed what was in my mind, for after lunch he took me for a 
motorboat ride one of the most uncomfortable rides I have ever 
had and when we got about a mile from the shore dived off the 
boat and went swimming. Suddenly he bobbed up from under the 
water, his hair dripping over his eyes, and said: "I bet you'd like 
to know what I talked to Hitler about." 

"Yes, I would. But perhaps because I have a shrewd opinion he 
did most of the talking." 

"Well, don't be too sure," replied Ciano, irritated. "He is not 
the only one. I can make history too. When I think how many lives 
depend on my thoughts, it's a relief to come out here for a few 
hours and get away from it all." (You may not believe it, but that's 
what he said.) 

That night Ciano, the del Dragos and I dined together at the Hotel 
Ambassador. Ciano was treated like royalty. When he walked into 
the room everybody stared at him; the waiters bowed low, and 
acquaintances made exaggerated efforts to draw an acknowledgment 
from him. He was not oblivious to the effect he created; when he 
asked me where I'd like to go after dinner and I suggested a place 
with music, he replied that the crowds made such a fuss about him 
he had to be careful where he went; his father had just died and he 
didn't want to make himself conspicuous. 

He finally decided on a small restaurant a few miles outside Rome. 
When we climbed into his car he proudly called my attention to 
the bullet-proof glass: "If anything should happen to me, history 
might alter." Although we arrived at the restaurant, we didn't go 
in, for Ciano sent for the manager and asked if his favourite guitat- 
player was still there. "No, Eccellenza" (and here the manager's 
voice took on an almost accusing note), "mobilizzato" ("No, 


Excellency, he has been called up in the mobilization.") Gano 
looked slightly taken aback, and we returned to Rome. 

Ciano was careful to keep off all political subjects and had given 
me no indication of what was happening. The following day how- 
ever, I again lunched with the del Dragos, Ciano and Alfiero (the 
Propaganda Minister, who had arranged my interview with Mus- 
solini) and an incident took place that told me what I wanted to 
know. Lunch with Ciano was always rather a comic affair, for a 
steady stream of waiters panted up and down the beach with huge 
dishes of spaghetti and buckets of red wine. As we were lying on 
the sand, under the shade of umbrellas, an elderly man and his 
daughter, both in bathing-suits, came down the broad walk. Ciano 
and Alfiero sprang up and went forward to greet them, but del 
Drago wandered off in the opposite direction. I was surprised to 
see Ciano making such a fuss over anyone and when del Drago 
came back, I asked him who the man was. 

"General Dlugoszowski, the Polish Ambassador," he answered. 
"I would have liked to have clasped his hand and told him we would 
save his country for him. But, alas, it's too late. We can't." 

So that was what had happened at Berchtesgaden. The Germans 
had fixed the date for war and decided to go ahead at any cost. 
No wonder Ciano found swimming a happy relaxation. 

Although many people believed that Ciano and Mussolini held 
varying views on foreign affairs, I thought Ciano much too much 
of a lightweight to cross his father-in-law in a serious way. Musso- 
lini still held the reins and from what I could learn was not a man 
to be influenced by anyone in making a decision. 

I didn't think Italy would come into the war at that time and 
wrote to that effect in an article in the Sunday Times. But I never 
doubted that the Fascist party was eager for a German victory and 
would facilitate one in every way it could. Dino Alfiero was one 
of the prime movers in this group. Before I left Rome I went to 
lunch with him and he told me whatever happened he didn't believe 
England and France would fight, "But if they do," he added, "it 
might as well come now as at some later date. Every now and then 
there comes a time in history when the lands of the earth must be 


Italian foreign policy seemed to me even more contemptible than 
the German. It ignored the great civilization that had been its 
heritage, and contained not even a shellacking of principle; it was 
out-and-out piracy. 

I learned there was no chance of interviewing Mussolini again 
and at the end of the week left for the south of France to spend 
a few days' holiday with Freda and Bobby Casa Maury. On the day 
that I flew from Rome to Genoa, news of the German-Soviet pact 
burst upon an astonished world. There it was, the overture to World 
War No. 2. For the first time, the war odds were in Germany's 
favour; Hitler was free to smash Poland, then turn his back on 
Russia and hurl his full striking force at the West in a final bid 
for European domination. Now nothing would stay his hand. 


Chapter III 



in a car with Marc Lauer, a friend of Bobby Casa Maury, headed 
for Paris. A good many other people were headed for Paris, too, 
for the news of the German Pact was like the proverbial wind 
before the storm. One minute summer visitors were going evenly 
about their lives; the next they were scattering pell-mell in a hundred 
directions, trying to get home before the lightning struck. The 
French Government had already begun calling up its reservists; the 
roads were crowded with trucks and motor-cycles, and you could 
almost hear the moan of the gale. 

French people are never unhappy in a dim way: they become 
sullen and angry. All along the way we were greeted by dark looks 
and irritable comments. When we stopped for lunch at Valence 
the waiter vented his feelings by rattling the dishes, and banging 
the door as though we were personally responsible for what was 
happening. Later on, when we went into a cafe at Lyons and asked 
the proprietress if there had been any news on the radio, she replied 
sharply: "I am too busy to listen." Then added: "Besides, there is 
nothing I want to hear." Never, I thought, was a country going to 
war with so little stomach for it. 

The roads were so crowded we didn't reach Paris until four 
o'clock in the morning. We came in by way of Fontainebleati. It 
had grown cold, and the great forests on either side of us had an 
eerie silence. The mist was thick on the ground and strange white 
shapes rose up in front of our head-lights; ghosts, I thought, of 
twenty years ago coming to life again. 

Paris was as beautiful as ever, but it had a troubled look, like a 



lovely woman who has lost her usual composure. Everything seemed 
to move faster: people, taxis, cyclists even the water that sprayed 
up from the fountains at the Rond Point. 

The hotels were filled with frightened American tourists badger- 
ing the porters and offering large sums of money for tickets to get 
them away before the trouble started. I went to see the Baroness, 
and found her alone in the flat. Her two maids, Yvonne and Ger- 
maine, had already left to join a hospital staff somewhere in the 

The Baroness was a slender woman with a small scar on her nose 
from a piece of shrapnel that had fallen when she was standing on 
her balcony in the last war. No one hated the Germans more than 
she. Once one of her friends had brought an Austrian girl to call; 
later Madame had upbraided her indignantly for bringing a Boche 
into the house. The friend had argued that she was Austrian, but 
Madame fiercely insisted they were all the same. 

Madame cried a little when she saw me and asked if I really 
thought there was going to be a war this time, but it was only a 
conversational question for she already knew the answer. She had 
worked in a Paris hospital during the last war and told me she had 
arranged to work there again. I said good-bye to her unhappily. 

Before I left, I went to see the concierge, the woman who always 
argued so fiercely with the baker. The year before, when I had come 
back from Prague and asked her what she thought of Munich she 
had shrugged her shoulders and replied with a single sentence: "Ctf 
n'est pas chic, fa." This time she again commented with a single 
sentence. "// faut en finir" 

I was lucky to get back to England, for the trains and boats were 
overflowing with holiday travellers and tickets were at a premium: 
there were so many delays the trip took nearly twelve hours. When 
at last we arrived at Dover we were confronted by a press poster, 
saying: "Hitler's Patience at an End." 

But Hitler's "patience" lasted five more days and one lived keyed 
up on hourly radio bulletins and news flashes: "A Thousand Tanks 
on the Polish Frontier"; "Midnight Talks In Whitehall"; "Children 


Leave Paris"; "Two Million Under Arms In Poland"; "Roosevelt 
Sends Message to Italy"; "Henderson Flies Home"; "Hitler Receives 
British Note"; "Hitler Replies." 

You knew that none of it made any difference whether Hender- 
son flew home or stayed in Berlin, whether Hitler replied or didn't. 
The end was going to be the same. When you walked through 
Hyde Park with the sun streaming down through the flowers, it 
seemed unreal: I remember thinking it was almost indecent of Nature 
not to behave more lugubriously. 

But the unreality of the weather was no stranger than the people 
around one. English people react to a crisis unlike any other people 
I know. The more tense the situation the calmer they become. In 
fact, no one referred to the impending war at all. Taxi-cab drivers, 
waiters and porters went about their work as though they were 
oblivious to the fact that soon they would be caught up in one of 
the greatest storms the world had ever known. The most you could 
get out of anyone was a short comment such as: "Things aren't too 
bright, are they?" and you suddenly felt guilty of bad taste for 
having referred to it. 

I had let my flat when I left London, and spent the crisis with 
Maureen and Oliver Stanley at their house in Romney Street. The 
telephone rang continuously and Oliver went to endless Cabinet 
meetings, but the household revolved in such an ordinary way it 
might have been any week except the one it was. Yet underneath, 
everyone knew what was in store for them. Oliver had fought in 
the last war at the age of eighteen. Now his son was eighteen and 
would soon fight in this one. Millions of people's happiness was at 
stake, yet they were powerless to prevent the future from exacting 
a terrible repetition of the past. 

In his pamphlet Black Record: Germans Past and Present, Sir 
Robert Vansittart writes: 

In 1907 I was crossing the Black Sea in a German ship. It was spring, 
and the rigging was full of bright-coloured birds. I noticed one among 
them in particular, strongly marked, heavier-beaked. And every now and 
then it would spring upon one of the smaller, unsuspecting birds and kill 
it. It was a shrike or butcher-bird; and it was steadily destroying all its 
fellows. . . . That butcher-bird on that German ship behaved exactly 


like Germany behaves. I was twenty-six at the time, and life looked pretty 
good or should have looked, for there were four hundred million hap- 
pinesses of a sort in Europe. But already I could feel the shadow on them, 
for I had spent long enough in Germany to know that she would bring 
on her fourth war as soon as she thought the going good. 
In the spring of 1939 the going was again good. 

At a quarter to one, exactly seventeen hours before German troops 
began their attack on Poland, Jane Leslie and I landed at the Tem- 
pelhof aerodrome in Berlin. From the moment we saw the grim 
rows of fighter planes lined up in the field planes painted black 
with white swastikas we felt the full drama of the awful moment. 
The capital was an armed camp. All private cars had been requi- 
sitioned and the only traffic in the streets was a stream of military 
lorries, armoured trucks and gun carriages that rumbled and clat- 
tered over the stone surfaces, terrible harbingers of the things to 
come. The hotels were crowded with the black uniforms of the 
Nazi storm troopers, and that night, for the first time, men were 
silhouetted against the sky, manning the anti-aircraft guns on the 
roof-tops along the Unter den Linden. 

Everywhere you felt the sinister force of the German nation on 
the eve of launching its fifth war on Europe within the space of 
seventy-five years. You felt it even in the wind that blew through 
the capital exactly as it had the previous August; it caught up bits 
of paper and rubbish and sent them scraping along the pavement 
with a queer noise that sounded like a death rattle. 

You knew the machine was ready. This was the moment that 
Nazi Germany had worked for for six years. Now the planes and 
tanks were waiting and the guns were in position. Everything had 
been completed down to the polish on the last button of the last 
uniform. All that remained was for the lever to be pulled. 

I had come to Berlin for only forty-eight hours to write a Sunday 
story. Jane was a friend from New York who had been spending 
the summer in Europe. Although I warned her we would probably 
be caught in Germany at the outbreak of war and it might take 
weeks to get back to England, she decided to come with me. She 


had never been to Berlin before and the atmosphere struck her even 
more forcibly than me. All the way to the hotel she peered out of 
the cab window, and when we walked into the Adlon lobby, past 
a group of unsmiling blackshirts, she stared at them as though they 
were slightly unreal characters that had stepped out of a Holly- 
wood film. 

We went into the Grill and found Pete Huss of the International 
News Service and Dr. Boehmer, the German Press Chief. Dr. Boeh- 
mer had lost his usual air of confidence and looked haggard and ill. 
He told us gloomily that nothing could save the situation now and 
prophesied the whole world would soon be involved. 

I have never seen a man more depressed. Pete Huss told me that 
at the morning press conference he had broken down and cried. 
I had become so accustomed to Nazi self-assurance, that the dejec- 
tion surprised me, but I realized that up till now I had seen German 
officialdom only when the cards were being played their way. At 
an afternoon conference in the Foreign Office the official spokes- 
man was almost as melancholy as Boehmer. A dozen journalists sat 
around the table hurling questions at him, but he kept shaking his 
head and replying in a low, strained voice: "Ich weiss nicht" ("I 
don't know"). Pete Huss, who was sitting next to me, whispered: 
" 'I don't know' is the only thing anyone does know in Berlin." 

The agency correspondents were sending bulletins every few 
minutes and the diplomats looked harassed and tired. We found Sir 
George Ogilvie-Forbes, the British Counsellor, working in his shirt- 
sleeves; Alexander Kirk, the American Charge d' Affaires, had moved 
a camp-bed into his office and for the last forty-eight hours had 
been on duty night and day. 

The long hours that stretched out that afternoon and evening 
were like a death-bed vigil: the anxiety, the confusion, the solemnity, 
the hushed tones, even the false note of cheerfulness. The diplomats 
adopted a while-there's-life-there's-hope attitude, but all the while 
went ahead making preparations for the funeral; Sir Nevile Hender- 
son left to have a final talk with Goering, but the first floor of the 
British Embassy was cluttered with luggage ready to be sent out 
on the diplomatic train when the signal came. Poor peace! nothing 


could bring the colour back into her cheeks, or warm her cold 
hands now. 

Only twenty years before ten million men had died in the most 
savage conflict the world had ever known. They had died violently: 
burnt, suffocated, gassed, drowned, bayoneted, and blown to atoms. 
Now once again the German nation was going to unloose the same, 
and even greater, horrors. Any hour now, one man would give the 
signal. A small crowd waited on the Wilhelmstrasse, outside the 
Chancellery. The special insignia showing that Hitler was in resi- 
dence was flying from the roof. When I walked past, I suddenly 
felt Ul. 

The occasion was so immense that the things you took in with 
your eyes didn't seem to have any connection with what was hap- 
pening. When Jane and I dined at Horscher.'s that night it was 
completely unreal: the dim lights, the excellent food, the attentive 
waiters, the laughing people, came from another world. I realized 
with a start that aside from a handful of officials, few people in 
Berlin were aware of the drama they were living through. They 
had lived through crises before. Their armies had been mobilized, 
and their men sent to the front and each time they had found a 
bloodless victory in their hands. This crisis probably seemed no 
more serious to them than the one the year before. Most of them 
would go to bed that night trusting confidently in the divine inspi- 
ration of the Fiihrer. In fact, a German acquaintance joined Jane 
and myself and told us she had heard a report that Poland was going 
to accept the German ultimatum she felt confident there would 
be a last-minute peace. When we drove past the Chancellery on 
the way home, at midnight, the lights were still burning. 

The next morning we were awakened by the tramp of marching 
feet the steps of the funeral cortege. Our rooms overlooked the 
Unter den Linden and we hurried out on to the balcony to see 
storm troopers lining the avenue. We telephoned downstairs and 
learned that Hitler was addressing the Reichstag at ten o'clock. 
Owing to the fact that the speech had been arranged at the last 
moment, there had been no time to organize crowds of enthusiastic 
spectators. Only a handful of people saw Adolf Hitler drive past, 
wearing, for the first time, the field-grey uniform of the German 


Army. For his most epoch-making declaration, he rode through 
empty streets. 

The speech was short: he enumerated the "atrocities" the Poles 
had committed and announced that since five-forty-five that morn- 
ing the Germans had been "returning" Polish fire. Jane and I listened 
from the office of Colonel Black, the American Military Attache. 
The windows overlooked the Unter den Linden. Although the ave- 
nue was strung with loud-speakers and the words rang through the 
capital with vehemence, we were struck by the unenthusiastic 
response they drew. Even the storm troopers showed little enthu- 

When it was over we walked down to the Chancellery and instead 
of the large crowd that usually gathers, found only fifty or sixty 
people. They shouted for Hitler to come out on the balcony, and, 
as we stood there, I reflected on the career of the man who had 
risen from house-painter to generalissimo. Hitler didn't appear, but 
it is perhaps worth recording that two windows away, in a section 
of the building being redecorated, three painters in white caps and 
overalls leaned out of the window and stared stupidly at the crowd. 

Jane and I lunched with Ogilvie-Forbes and Colonel Daly (the 
British Military Attache) in the Adlon garden. They told us no 
news had been received regarding the British declaration of war, 
but it was expected any time. A group of German officials at a 
nearby table stared at the Englishmen curiously, but from Ogilvie- 
Forbes* smiling and impervious expression they could have learned 
little. I thought they seemed perplexed. 

Even though the war had begun in the cold-blooded and calcu- 
lated way everyone had expected, I felt slightly dazed. I wondered 
what was going through the minds of the Germans. I finally went 
up to one of the desk-clerks and asked him bluntly how he felt 
about a world war. I shall never forget my surprise at his reply. 

He looked at Jane and me in amazement. "What do you mean, 
a world war? Poland is Germany's affair. What's it got to do with 
anyone else?" 

A few minutes later we saw the clerk in a small group with two 


or three other people. He was evidently repeating what we had 
said, for he pointed towards us and the others laughed and made 
a gesture of disbelief. 

"Look at them," said Jane excitedly. "They don't believe us. 
They're probably saying 'Oh, those two girls they're crazy!'" 

I was astonished, I hadn't realized up till now that the ordinary 
people were so ignorant as to the true state of affairs. But I suppose 
it shouldn't have seemed so surprising. The morning papers had 
carried no news of the British and French ultimatum. German 
propaganda had been concentrated solely against Poland and even 
in Hitler's Reichstag speech there had been only a slim reference 
to England and France to the effect that he could "only regret the 
declarations of foreign statesmen that this (the attack on Poland) 
affected their interests." Germany, he had added, had no interest 
in the West; had no aims of any kind there for the future. 

When the waiter brought us tea we sounded him out and got the 
same reaction the clerk had given us. 

"The Poles provoked Germany too far. Now they can pay the 

"But how do you feel about fighting Great Britain and France?" 

"Who says we are going to fight Great Britain and France? 
Poland is no one's concern but Germany's. We couldn't sit back 
and let Poles shoot down German women and children. Why should 
anyone else interfere?" He gave us an angry look and stamped away. 

It was only when we talked to one of the porters an older man 
that we had a glimpse of alarm. When we told him England and 
France were going to war with Germany, he looked at us in despair, 
and said: "Mein Gott, I hope not. I had four years in the last one 
and that was enough." 

German complacency was slightly jarred about five o'clock when 
air-raid sirens suddenly moaned through the capital. Our first thought 
was: the British Air Force. We hurried on to the balcony. Below, 
cars were stopping beside the road and people were running in 
every direction. A truck pulled up so fast it went over the kerb. 
We went downstairs and saw people pouring into the lobby from 
the street. The manager appeared, raised his arms for attention, 
and told the crowd to follow him to the shelter. He led us through 


the kitchen into the back garden. The only ceiling was the sky 
that was the Adlon shelter. 

The crowd looked upwards apprehensively and an elderly Ger- 
man standing next to me asked if I had ever been in an air raid 
before. I told him I'd been bombed several times by German planes 
in Spain and he relapsed into silence. Twenty minutes later the 
"all clear" blew and we heard later it was only a rehearsal. 

All this took place on a Friday. I had to file my story to the 
Sunday Times on Saturday and as the communications between 
England and Germany were liable to snap at any moment we decided 
to leave for Holland that night. The train services were already 
dislocated. We were told we could get tickets only as far as Cologne 
and would have to make further arrangements from there. 

That night, for the first time, the trains travelled through a silent 
and darkened Germany. The lights were dimmed and the blinds 
tightly drawn. There were no sleeping-cars and we had to sit up 
all night in a compartment with six other people. There were three 
middle-aged Hausfrauen loaded down with parcels and bags; a 
portly gentleman with cropped hair, who might have posed for a 
caricature of a German; a fifteen-year-old boy; and a dark wiry 
little man who spoke English, and told us he was a musician on his 
way to Diisseldorf . The three women were evidently friends. They 
kept up a stream of conversation and seemed to regard the black-out 
as an hilarious adventure. They were in such high spirits we realized 
they must be as oblivious to the situation as the people in Berlin. 
We couldn't resist raising the subject, and this time Jane started. 
She turned to the musician. "Has there been any news about the 
British and French declaration of war?" 

"War? We're not at war with England and France. Just Poland." 

"I think war's already been declared," Jane continued stubbornly. 

The women wanted to know what she was saying and the musician 
translated her remark. They gasped and the caricature spoke up. 

"I don't believe it. Germany is only taking police action in Poland. 
No one will go to war for that." 

The musician agreed. "You mustn't believe rumours. They're 
always wrong." Then he grinned: "After we cut Poland's throat" 


(and here he drew his finger suggestively across his throat) "we'll 
settle down to peace again." 

Everyone laughed. The women looked reassured and resumed 
their spirited conversation. What a story, I thought. Germany on 
the eve of a world war and no one willing to believe it; everyone 
confident that Hitler would pull it off again always the palm 
without the dust. 

We arrived at Cologne in the morning and caught a train for Rot- 
terdam. We were in a fever to know what was happening in Eng- 
land and France, but the German papers omitted such details and 
carried only glowing accounts of the advance into Poland. When 
we reached Kalden, the German frontier station, it was like scaling 
the last wall of a terrible prison. A group of S.S. men boarded the 
train and began searching the compartments. In one of them they 
even ripped up the cushions. What they were looking for we never 
discovered, but they took three or four people off all weeping 
and protesting. 

In our compartment there was an old Jewish couple who told 
us they were going to America where a professorship was awaiting 
the old man. When the customs officials came to inspect their visas 
their hands trembled so much they could hardly show them, and we 
suffered for their anguish lest something upset their plans. But finally 
it was all over and the train was heading for Vlissengen, the Dutch 
station. The professor reached out for his wife's hand and held it 

But the incident ended in a heart-breaking fashion. When the 
Dutch customs officials came aboard they asked the couple to 
show their boat tickets to America, and the old gentleman replied 
the tickets were awaiting them at Amsterdam. The authorities shook 
their heads and said there was a rigid law that no Germans could 
travel through Holland unless they could prove they were going on 
to another destination. They would have to return to Germany. 

The old lady began to cry and the professor argued pathetically. 
Jane and I became infuriated with the authorities, but since we 
couldn't speak a word of Dutch were able to be of little help. 
However a Dutchman in the next compartment interfered and tried 


to persuade the customs men to let them stay at Vlissengen until 
they could arrange for someone to bring the tickets to them. But 
when our train left, the officials were still shaking their heads. 
Our last glimpse of the old couple was sitting on the platform 
bench, their bags piled up beside them. We never learned how 
the story ended. 

The rest of the way to Rotterdam Jane and I hung out of the 
window at every stop and asked for news. Had England and France 
declared war? Some nodded their heads, some shook them; some 
said an ultimatum had been sent, some said it hadn't. No one seemed 
to know. But one thing was certain the sympathy of the Dutch 
for the Poles. People clutched hopefully at any bit of news detri- 
mental to Germany. One of the Dutch papers carried a headline 
(which a man on the train translated for us) "Poles Shoot Down 
Six Planes" and it was selling like hot cakes. 

Jane and I had a stroke of luck for we reached Rotterdam just 
twenty minutes before a Dutch steamer left for England. Jane spent 
the afternoon sleeping and I wrote my story. The trip took five 
or six hours and we didn't reach England until nine o'clock that 

For the first time the English island was darkened. It was a strange 
experience pulling up stealthily to the dock and only knowing you 
were there when the steamer bumped against the pier; hearing the 
shouts of the dock hands, the noise of the ropes swinging over the 
side of the ship, the splash of the water, and seeing nothing. 

At last the gang-way was lowered. When we stepped ashore we 
asked one of the dockers a large shadowy bulk whether war 
had been declared. 

"Not yet. But I hope it won't be long now. This waiting around 
is making us all nervous." 

I just had time to put in a telephone call and file my story before 
the train left. On the way to London we had a nasty start. We 
hadn't been going very long before we heard the sound of far-away 
explosions. We leaned out and saw the sky lighting up with sharp, 
spasmodic flashes obviously bursts from anti-aircraft fire. We hung 
out of the window for some time. But when we got within ten 


miles of London we felt the rain coming down and realized it was 
only a thunderstorm. 

The next morning at eleven o'clock Neville Chamberlain broad- 
cast to the world that the British Empire was at war with Germany. 
While he was speaking air-raid sirens pierced the air. That, like the 
warning in Berlin, was a false alarm. But this wasn't a rehearsal. 
I learned later that the assistant French Military Attache in London, 
Captain de Brantes, had not expected the British declaration of war 
until later in the day. He was in Paris when he heard the news 
and hired a private plane to fly him back to England. He was mis- 
taken for a German. 

At any rate, he provided everybody with a good deal of excite- 
ment. Before it became known the alarm was a false one I talked 
on the telephone with a journalist who solemnly assured me he had 
heard the explosions and that his building had even rocked ever 
so slightly. When I saw him the next day he didn't refer to the 


Chapter IV 


on the main street of Cernauti a Roumanian town two miles from 
the Polish frontier I thought how many terrible stories could be 
written about the people in that one room alone. 

For three days Polish refugees had come streaming across the 
frontier before the massacre of the German tanks and planes. Some 
had come on foot with knapsacks over their backs; some in carts 
and wagons; some in battered motor-cars with the few possessions 
they had been able to save piled on top. The narrow Roumanian 
streets ran with mud and the police, detailed to avoid congestion, 
spent most of their time cursing at the donkey-carts of the local 
inhabitants, invariably stuck in the middle of the road. The Roumanian 
peasants seemed bewildered by the war thunderbolt that had sud- 
denly transformed their quiet town; groups of them collected 
around the battered Polish cars, peering at the registration plates 
with morbid curiosity. 

The small hotel on the main street had become a tragic "Grand 
Hotel." It was so crowded people were sleeping on the floor of 
the lobby not only were there refugees, but foreign journalists, 
diplomats and military attaches, who had crossed the frontiers a 
few hours before. But it wasn't hard to pick out the Poles. You 
could tell them by their mud-stained clothes and the dazed looks 
in their faces. In one corner of the lobby a Polish woman, with a 
fine head and long slender hands, sat alone, crying. She didn't make 
any sound but sat quite motionless, hour after hour, the tears stream- 
ing down her face. 

All around you, you felt the tragedy of smashed lives. Every 



now and then an incident caught your eye, like a fragment of a 
broken picture, and your imagination flared up as you wondered 
what story lay behind the scene. I remember the two neatly-dressed 
little Polish boys who came into the lobby clutching tin aeroplanes 
and explaining to the desk clerk, proudly: "Man pere est un pilote" 
and the look on their mother's face as though she had been struck 
when they spoke the words; the man who had been wandering 
listlessly round the lobby, staring at a girl who came through the 
door as though he had seen a ghost, then running up and flinging 
his arms about her and both of them laughing hysterically; the three 
children sitting on suitcases propped up in the corner of the hall 
waiting for the parents they had become separated from, and the 
desk clerk telling us he didn't know how to explain to them the 
frontier had been closed for several hours and now there was little 
chance of their coming. 

That was Tuesday, September ipth, exactly two weeks and four 
days after the German attack had begun. The Russian Army had 
crossed the frontier forty-eight hours before and Poland's two 
powerful neighbours were squeezing in on her like a giant nut- 
cracker. The last border the Roumanian had slammed shut, and 
now the country was sealed up, isolated, and awaiting its doom. 

I had never imagined that Poland could be destroyed so quickly 
there wouldn't even be time to get to it. The day after Great Britain 
and France declared war I had decided to go to Warsaw. The only 
route open was London to Bergen (Norway) by boat; Bergen to 
Oslo (Norway) by train; Oslo to Stockholm (Sweden) by train; 
Stockholm to Helsinki (Finland) by aeroplane; Helsinki to Riga 
(Latvia) by aeroplane; Riga to Kovno (Lithuania) by train; Kovno 
to Warsaw by train. 

It took me five days to get the proper visas. When at last I had 
them, Mr. Rogers of Cook's Travel Bureau rang up to say the 
frontier between Lithuania and Poland had been closed and now 
my only chance was via Roumania, which meant travelling through 
France, Switzerland, Italy and Yugoslavia. The new visas took an- 
other five days, and by the time I was ready to leave the German 
Onslaught had moved so fast it was already doubtful whether even 
the Rojimanian frontier would stay open. 


That trip across a darkened Europe, at war for the second time 
in twenty-one years, was a strange experience. It stands out in my 
mind now as a series of impressions: crossing the channel at night 
on a boat that took a fourteen hour zig-zag course to escape a Ger- 
man U-boat; the nine-hour train trip to Paris with its interminable 
stops and the stage porter who kept shrugging his shoulders and 
repeating the old cliche, "C'est la guerre" \ the deserted, unfamiliar 
look of Paris with its shop fronts boarded up and its men at the 
front; the Simplon express from Paris to Rome with its shaded lights, 
obsequious waiters and luxurious dining-car the only train in 
France with sleepers and a restaurant as all the others had been 
requisitioned as hospital trains; the rigid inspection of the Swiss 
frontier officials by order of a government determined not to have 
the country turned into the same spy centre it was in the last war; 
and the hysterical scene created by three Italians, unfamiliar with 
the new visa regulations, who were put off, bag and baggage, in 
the middle of the night; and, finally, Rome with the street lights 
blazing and the peaceful clatter of carriages along the cobble-stones. 

I discovered that lights were one of the few luxuries the capital 
could boast, for Italy, neutral though she was, was already under- 
going more hardships than the belligerent countries. There was no 
petrol and no coffee. This last, to a nation that spends half its days 
in the cafes, wasn't a deprivation to be taken lightly. I arrived in 
Rome late at night and left by plane for Bucharest early the next 
morning, so I didn't have a chance to see any friends; but at the 
Hotel Excelsior the porters and waiters pressed me with questions 
about France and England, expressed eloquent sympathy for the 
Poles, and a firm resolve to keep their end of the Axis out of the war. 

The moment I arrived in Bucharest I felt myself jerked back into 
an atmosphere of crisis. With Soviet troops massing on the Rou- 
manian frontier and rumours that Germany was concentrating her 
forces in Hungary, tension was at a fever pitch. In the crowded 
restaurants, when loud-speakers began broadcasting the news bul- 
letins, people put down their knives and forks 
stopped; everyone listened with painful intensity. 

I didn't know that the Polish frontier had " 
soon as I reached the hotel looked up the tr 


was one leaving that night, but the porter told me there was so 
much delay no one could guarantee how long the trip would take. 
But I went to see a friend at the British Legation and had the good 
luck to run into Lord Forbes, a young man I had met in London, 
who had just been appointed Air Attache. He was flying to Cernauti 
in the morning in his own plane and offered to take me with him. 

When we arrived at the Bucharest aerodrome in the morning we 
were greeted by a strange scene. Twenty-four hours before the 
Polish High Command had ordered its aviators to fly into Roumania 
to prevent their planes from falling into German hands. Nearly three 
hundred planes forty twin-engined bombers and over two hundred 
fighters had arrived at the aerodrome. Over a hundred pilots, ex- 
hausted and unshaven, were sleeping on the floor of the waiting- 
room; their uniforms were torn and dirty and many of them had 
bandaged hands and faces. 

One of the officers had brought a plane in with sixteen bullet-holes 
in it after a fight with the Russians. He was a tall, slender man, with 
a medal on his ragged brown jacket, on which were the words: 
"Virtuti Militari" He told us he had won it in 1921, when the 
Poles had succeeded in driving the Bolsheviks from Warsaw. "This 
time," he said bitterly, "they have succeeded." 

Although he had not eaten for more than twenty-four hours and 
seemed close to exhaustion, he refused to accept any money from 
us. He drew himself up proudly, shaking his head, and saying over 
and over again, "Non> merci, I am an officer, a colonel in the 
Polish Army." 

This same indomitable pride existed among all the officers with 
whom we talked. There was no plea for pity, no request for help 
of any kind; only a passionate determination to escape from Rou- 
mania, to join up in the French Air Force. One of the pilots came 
from a town in the Polish corridor. His family had been killed in 
the bombardment, and his two brothers, both aviators, shot down 
in air battles a few days before. "What are they going to do with 
us?" he kept asking Lord Forbes over and over again. "They can't 
shut us up. We must go on.' 9 

We took him into the restaurant and gave him some tea (the 
only drink there was) and although he had only a few coins in his 


pockets, he tried determinedly to pay the bill. Fortunately, the 
manager came up and saved the situation by insisting that we were 
all guests of the airport. 

The aeroplane trip to Cernauti took about two hours and we ar- 
rived just as it was getting dark. Some of the Polish planes had 
landed here as well as Bucharest; one of them had nose-dived into 
the ground and the tail stood up, silhouetted against the fading light 
of the sky, like a huge black cross. 

The first person I ran into at the hotel was Ed Beattie, the United 
Press correspondent, whom I hadn't seen since that grim, rainy 
day in Carlsbad just a year ago. Ed had come from Warsaw and 
he told me that within the first forty-eight hours the German Air 
Force had succeeded in smashing the telephone and telegraph centres, 
the bridgeheads, railway junctions in fact, all the important lines 
of communication throughout the country. From then on the front 
didn't existonly scattered, isolated groups unable to reach each 
other, or even relay orders. 

This total warfare, which depends on disrupting the civil life of 
the community, and claims as military objectives towns and villages 
as far as 150 miles behind the front line on the grounds that they 
are either food bases or communication centres had been experi- 
mented with in Spain. In Poland it was brought to its full flower 
of perfection. Ed told me he had seen a German map on which all 
the important junctions, factories and bridgeheads were marked with 
exactly the weight of bombs required to destroy them. 

And here in Poland, the large scale Fifth Column activities, which 
have since become recognized as an integral part of German strategy 
were used for the first time. Agents with short-wave wireless trans- 
mitters were dispersed throughout the country to relay whatever 
information they could get. Anthony Biddle, the American Am- 
bassador, told me the spy ring was so effective that the moves of 
the Polish Government were broadcast from German stations an 
hour or so after the most secret decisions had been made. On several 
occasions he had heard the news of his own proposed movements 
(even when he was going from one remote village to another) broad- 
cast before he had started on the journey. 

The strategy of the Soviet Army was more subtle than that of 


the Germans. Major Colbern, the American Military Attache in 
Warsaw, who crossed into Roumania just before the frontier closed, 
told me that he was driving along a Polish country road near the 
Russian frontier on Sunday morning when he suddenly saw a tank 
regiment and a column of troops coming over the brow of a hill. 
He had never seen tanks of this type in Poland before and drove 
towards the column greatly puzzled. It was only when he was a 
few yards away that he suddenly saw the Soviet red star on the 
commander's cap. Near the rear of the column Polish troops had 
joined in with the Russians and were fraternizing happily. The 
Soviet officer approached the Military Attache smiling, inspected 
his papers, then saluted him and said that he might pass. When he 
asked the Russian officer where he was going, the latter replied 
cheerfully that they were on their way to fight the Germans. With 
this he ordered the column to move to one side of the road so that 
the Attache's car might pass, and courteously saluted good-bye. 

At first it was thought that many of the Soviet officers actually 
believed they were entering Poland to fight the Germans, but it 
later became apparent they had merely been given orders to tell 
the Poles this. Thus, instead of offering resistance, the Poles greeted 
them as brothers, allowing the Soviet columns to sweep through 
village after village without firing a shot. 

The first Soviet wave made no attempt to disarm the Poles, and 
it was not until the vanguard had made a sufficiently long advance 
that the rearguard was given orders to deprive the Poles of their 
guns and ammunition. This gave the Soviet Government the oppor- 
tunity to announce that the Poles greeted their Russian comrades 
with open arms. 

I went back to England badly shaken by even the second-hand 
glimpse I'd had of the Polish massacre. I flew from Bucharest to 
Milan and caught the express to Paris. We reached the French fron- 
tier about five in the morning and I was awakened by the sound 
of excited French voices. An American woman had overlooked the 
necessity of getting a visa to enter France. The authorities told her 
indignantly she must leave the train at once and I heard her voice 


rise shrill and insistent above the hubbub. "But I only want to buy 
a dress at Schiaparelli's." 

She was deposited on the platform, expostulating angrily, but I 
have a nasty feeling she got there in the end. If the dress is still in 
fashion, she's probably wearing it now at cocktail parties in New 


Chapter V 



sandbags, London looked surprisingly the same. Hitler, hitherto 
quick to strike at those who defied him, appeared to have ignored 
Mr. Chamberlain's momentous declaration of war. Air-raid wardens 
and fire-fighters manned their posts, and the public peered skywards 
anxiously, but nothing happened. The hospital wards, ready to re- 
ceive 30,000 casualties a day, remained empty and people began to 
wonder, sheepishly, if the war was going to be as savage as they 
had thought. 

Certainly war had lost its old-time glamour. Missing was the en- 
thusiasm of 1914; missing were the bands, the flags, the columns of 
marching men, the pretty girls raffling kisses for war funds. This 
time there were no trimmings or decorations, not even any slogans. 
Just a dignified bill-board over Marble Arch, saying: "Lend to 
Defend the Right to be Free." 

In fact, there was so little war atmosphere it was only at night 
that you felt the dread significance of the moments you were living 
through. I had been in Madrid and Prague when the lights had gone 
out, but somehow in London the great curtain of blackness seemed 
an entirely new experience. Those first nights stand out in my 
mind as a series of impressions; buildings jutting up so darkly the 
sky looked almost white; cab drivers hurtling through the black- 
ness faster than they'd ever driven before; air-raid wardens shouting 
"Put out that light"; cigarettes gleaming like glow-worms; buses 
lurching down Piccadilly with shadowy blue lights; people stumbling 
and cursing along the streets. John Gunther broadcast to America 
that a porter in his hotel (I think it was the Dorchester), a V.G in 


*75 THE c< BORE ff WAR 

the last war, had already become a casualty in this one by tripping 
over some sandbags in the black-out. He was not the only one. 
British casualties for the first two months of the war were: Army 
none; Air Force 79; Navy 596; Blackout 1,130. 

That period of inactivity seemed interminable. The official con- 
ception of the war was briefly, that Great Britain would blockade 
Germany until the latter was forced to attack across the Maginot 
line, which as everyone knew was impregnable; when the Reichswehr 
had battered itself to pieces and the German people were hungry 
and subjugated the conflict would end. But the British public had 
an uneasy feeling it wouldn't be as simple as that. People switched 
off their radios, fretting over the laconic French war communiques, 
and the undramatic British pamphlet raids. Pamphlet raids became 
so irksome to the public that a joke went round that a pilot had 
been reprimanded by his superior officer for not untying one of his 
bundles before he dropped it out of the plane. "What are you trying 
to do?" he was upbraided. "Kill someone?" 

Wits promptly dubbed World War No. 2 "The Bore War," and 
Lord Haw-Haw's spirited broadcasts became the nation's chief 
amusement. But although the outside world was alarmed by Democ- 
racy's lame start to the grim business in front of it, England 
in spite of her placid appearance, had already undergone a gigantic 
upheaval. Overnight everyone's life had changed. Houses were 
shut up, families separated, careers abandoned, and new jobs begun. 
The great economic engine had come to a halt, creaking and groan- 
ing; the brakeman had thrown the switch and now the machine was 
diverted to a new track: war production. 

The first taste of the struggle was not death but readjustment. 
Besides the hundreds of thousands of men swept into the fighting 
services, thousands more were summoned to munition factories, aero- 
dromes and dockyards. Women were called to work on the land 
and children evacuated from their homes. Veterans of the last war 
rejoined their old regiments as subalterns and volunteers flooded the 
A.R.P. Services. Taxes went sky-rocketing and everybody's future 
became the same question mark. Money was already such an un- 
certain commodity that those who had any spent it more freely 
than ever; restaurants and cabarets were packed, and debutantes and 


their boy friends sat up all night at a hilarious new bottle club called 
"The Nut House." Underneath, most people knew the period of 
waiting was only the first round; before the fight was over blood 
would flow more freely than ever before. 

As soon as I got back from Roumania I gave up my flat in Eaton 
Mews and went to live with Freda Casa Maury. The owner moved 
back again so Mrs. Sullivan and Pickles were not at loose ends. Mrs. 
Sullivan's "old man" had been called up in the Naval Reserve and at 
Christmas she sent me a pencil with my name on it "to help me in 
my work" and a card saying that she was doing part-time work for 
the A.R.P. Somehow, the picture of Mrs. Sullivan's portentous 
frame clearing the streets when the sirens blew threatened to be 
almost more frightening than the raids themselves. 

Freda was an Englishwoman married to a Spaniard, Bobby Casa 
Maury, who had served in the British Air Force in the last war and 
had now gone back to serve in it again. Like so many others, she 
was appalled by a second war in a lifetime, but readjusted her life 
with determination. The first move was pasting the mirrors with 
strips of brown paper. The house seemed to be entirely made of 
glass and it took Vernon, the butler, nearly a month to do the job. 
When it was finished it looked like an exotic trellis-work stage set. 
"If this house is ever hit," remarked Vernon morosely, "there'll be 
bad luck all the way back to the Stone Ages again." 

I was writing a series of articles on various war organizations, and 
Freda worked all day at the Feathers clubs clubs which she had 
organized in the poor sections of London. In spite of the war, there 
was little gloom here. Once a week the members had a party. They 
provided their own band, and, judging from the shrieks of laughter, 
the singing and shouting, it was always a wild success. Most of them 
came to Freda with their problems. She got a good many started on 
war work, but conspicuous among her failures was the sixteen-year- 
old girl whom she sounded out as to what sort of things she was best 
at. "Laughing and love," came the prompt reply. I never learned 
where her talents led her. 

Highly intelligent, Freda was alarmed by the easy-going optimism 

277 THE ''BORE'' WAR 

of the winter. Unlike the Hyde Park pavement artist who exhibited 
a poster: "Latest Rumours Hitler Sends For Two Aspirins," she 
had a healthy regard for Germany's strength. "The trouble with us," 
she complained, "is that we're too complacent." She did her best to 
offset it, however, for whenever people asked her brightly how long 
she thought the war would last, she replied firmly: "Ten years at 
least. Possibly more." 

Most of the young men I knew were scattered around England 
at the various training stations. Englishmen have such a natural 
aversion to militarism that the first time they appeared in London 
in their uniforms they looked self-conscious and embarrassed. When 
I walked down the street with Tom Mitford and a group of soldiers 
saluted him, he blushed scarlet. 

For many of them particularly those in their thirties giving 
up Jobs and careers and starting a wholly new life was a severe 
wrench, but I never heard any of them complain. They all joined 
up as regimental soldiers, and took delight in jokes at their own 
and each other's expense. When I went down to see Roger Chet- 
wode and Seymour Berry, officers in an anti-aircraft regiment, they 
complained they had had the opportunity to go into action only once. 
That was when two bombers were sighted. Fortunately they missed 
them, for both were British. 

A few months later the monotony was broken when a German 
bomber a mine-laying plane actually did appear. It crashed, late 
at night, in the middle of Clacton-on-Sea, where they had gone for 
a few weeks. They ran out, helped the wardens evacuate the dam- 
aged area, roped off the streets, and generally took charge of the 
situation. They were interested by the curious fact that the blast 
had blown a kitchen boiler into the middle of the road. Seymour 
sat down on it and lighted a cigarette. Soon after a group of naval 
experts arrived and advised him to move, as he was sitting on a 
magnetic mine. 

Another time I went down to see Aidan Crawley, who rejoined 
the 60 1 Squadron when war broke out. The 60 1 was an auxiliary air 
squadron that had been started about fifteen years before by boys, 
most of whom had enough money to have their own planes. It was 
a current joke that the men gave their girls the squadron emblem, 
the flying sword, in rubies and diamonds, and that the village where 


the squadron was stationed was crowded with Rolls-Royces. When 
the 60 1 went into action the following spring it proved itself a 
crack fighter force; its Squadron Leader, Max Aitken (Lord Beaver- 
brook's son) was awarded the D.F.C. for shooting down ten planes 
in his first three months of combat. 

Before the war Aidan had been nursing a constituency as a So- 
cialist candidate. Although he appeared that day in his blue uniform 
with the wings embroidered on the front, he had a huge book of 
economics under his arm which he said he was reading in his "spare" 
time. Somehow fighter planes that travelled at 400 miles an hour 
and economic theories seemed an odd combination. 

Another week-end I went to Oxfordshire to spend a few days 
with Sheila and Freddie Birkenhead. In peace time, Freddie, the son 
of the brilliant "F. E.," one-time Lord Chancellor of England, had 
been Lord Halifax's parliamentary private secretary; now he was a 
lieutenant in an anti-tank regiment. He asked me to talk to his troops 
on Germany, and although I had never made a speech before I 
agreed, thinking it was only to a small group. When I arrived at 
the barracks I was astonished to find several hundred men assembled. 
But it was Freddie's reassurance that nearly undid me. "Don't 
worry," he hissed in my ear, "they won't dare boo. If they mis- 
behave they know they'll be sent to the guard-room." To him this 
was the great feature about the Army; you could always have an 
audience and no one dared answer back. His remark cut both ways, 
for when the men applauded at the end I had an uneasy feeling they 
had been threatened with a fatigue unless they showed appreciation. 

Freddie was a clever and charming person who, at the age of 
thirty-one, had already published two biographies one on his father 
and one on the Earl of Strafford and was considered one of the 
most promising young men in England. No one could have been less 
military minded, but he accepted his new life with a good deal of 
ironical amusement. One day an expert lectured his regiment on 
anti-tank weapons and told them bluntly that their chances of sur- 
vival were limited. Soon after, Freddie went to lunch with Winston 
Churchill and the latter's son, Randolph. He told them what the 
expert had said and Winston expostulated indignantly: "What a 
monstrous thing to say. On the contrary, you'll be sitting there, pick- 
ing off the tanks one by one." "Well, what about me?" interrupted 


Randolph, Mr. Churchill had overlooked the fact that his son was 
in a tank corps. He scratched his head and dropped the subject. 

Most of the big houses in London were shut, and there was little 
entertaining that winter. One of the few exceptions was 58 Romney 
Street, where Maureen and Oliver Stanley lived. You walked through 
a red door and were confronted by a notice on the hall-table warn- 
ing the butler to be careful about taking in parcels that "might ex- 
plode." Oliver was then in the Government and the notice had been 
sent round to all Cabinet Ministers in view of recent I.R.A. activities. 

Romney Street was in Westminster, only a few blocks from the 
Houses of Parliament, and every afternoon from six o'clock on it 
was crowded with Cabinet Ministers, M.P.'s, Foreign Office officials 
and Service chiefs. Oliver had entered the Cabinet at the age of 38 
and was considered one of the most able men in the Government; 
when he was appointed War Minister in January he was the fourth 
generation of the Derby family to hold the same office. 

Maureen had also inherited a political sense. Her grandmother, 
the Lady Londonderry of the day, had been a great political hostess 
in the early part of the century. A staunch Tory, she refused even 
to nod to a Whig, and when Winston Churchill joined the Liberal 
Party fiercely upbraided Lady Birkenhead for allowing "F. E." to 
associate with him. A woman of great charm, she was also one of 
decided opinions which at times proved trying to her household. 
Once her maid got so angry when she was helping her dress that 
she plaited her hair into the back of the chair and left the room. 

Maureen's mother, the next Lady Londonderry, also wielded great 
influence. Ramsay MacDonald was enchanted with her and her balls 
at Londonderry House were supposed to have played a large part 
in diverting his nationalization of the mines to his less drastic na- 
tionalization of the Cabinet. 

Maureen, one of the most popular women in London, kept up the 
family tradition in a more informal but no less effective way. Her 
gatherings usually included a mixture of people that ranged from 
British Cabinet Ministers to Roumanian diplomats; French staff of- 
ficers to Swedish business men; American journalists to Italian of- 
ficials. Maureen had an easy-going manner that made everyone fed 


at ease and she never appeared disconcerted no matter how many 
stayed for dinner at the last moment. 

One day, about three months after the declaration of war, I went 
to Romney Street for lunch and sat next to Winston Churchill. 
He was then First Lord of the Admiralty, and on this occasion was 
in particularly buoyant spirits. I remember his telling us the story 
of a destroyer that had dropped a depth charge, but instead of find- 
ing a submarine, bits of an old wreckage had come to the surface. 
"And would you believe it?" he added with relish, "there was a 
door bobbing around with my initials on it!" He had recorded this 
incident in one of his speeches but Neville Chamberlain cut it out. 

I also saw Mr. Churchill at Maureen's New Year's party. The 
house was overflowing with people and an accordion-player went 
around the room playing all the popular tunes. I remember Mr. 
Churchill singing, "Run, Rabbit, Run," with great verve. But when 
the clock struck twelve a solemnity fell over the group. Mr. Churchill 
took Freda Casa Maury and me on either side of him; we all joined 
hands in a circle and sang Auld Lang Syne. In everybody's mind 
was the question of what 1940 would bring. When Mr. Churchill 
sang out the old year he seemed deeply moved, as though he had a 
premonition that a few months later he would be asked to guide the 
British Empire through the most critical days it had ever faced. 

That night also had a special significance for me. The war in Fin- 
land had started about three weeks before. When the headlines an- 
nounced that Helsinki had been bombed I thought it would be 
another Poland that the country would be obliterated so quickly 
there would be little chance of getting there before it was over. 
Then the papers began recording the amazing feats of the Finns; 
incredible though it seemed, the Russian "steam-roller" was being 
held in check. 

I made my arrangements to go to Helsinki and left a few days after 
the New Year's party. Maureen had a fortune-teller that night, and 
when he read my hand he said: "You are going on a long trip." I 
was impressed until he added: "You will be surrounded by lights, 
gaiety and laughter." 

I found none of those things. 

Pan Seven 



Chapter I 



The transition was a gradual one. When you took off from the 
aerodrome "somewhere in England" and flew over the North Sea 
in a plane with the windows frosted over so you couldn't see out, 
it was very much World War No. 2. It was still World War No. 2 
at Amsterdam and Copenhagen; but at Malmo, a port in southern 
Sweden, the issue began to get shaky. When you asked 'for the 
latest war news, the answer was: "Which?" And by the time you 
reached Stockholm there was no longer any doubt: "The war" 
meant Molotov cocktails and Soviet bombers. 

Stockholm was in a state of tension. The papers carried advertise- 
ments calling for volunteers, the restaurants were filled with women 
canvassing for funds, and the hotels decorated with posters, saying: 
"Defend Sweden by Helping Finland Now." The war on the Western 
Front was as remote as China. I stayed there only twenty-hour hours; 
besides a general impression of excitement and confusion I chiefly 
remember how cold I was. I was wearing a thick suit, fur-lined boots 
and a sheepskin coat, but the biting wind penetrated my bones. I 
had a suitcase filled with sweaters, woollen underwear, woollen socks, 
a ski suit and a windbreaker. I put on everything except the ski suit, 
and tried not to think what it would be like when I got to the 
Arctic Circle. 

Every day a Finnish aeroplane flew from Stockholm to Turku, a 
town in the south of Finland. The plane left "some time." The hour 
was never certain, .for Turku was often bombed and the pilot had 
to await an all-clear signal before he took off. On the day I left, I 
arrived at the aerodrome at three o'clock, but we didn't leave till 


nearly six. There were only half a dozen passengers; four Finns 
two army officers and two women a Swedish journalist and a Ger- 
man-Jewish photographer. The photographer told me he had left 
for Turku the afternoon before, but when the plane was halfway 
there the pilot received a warning of bombers and had to return to 

It was dark when our plane took off from the hard, snowpacked 
field. It seemed odd to me to fly to a war. One moment you were 
walking peacefully along brightly-lit streets, and an hour or so later 
you were groping your way in the dark, your ears strained for the 
sound of planes. When I used to fly from France to Barcelona and 
Valencia, the transition was so quick it was almost incongruous. 
Here it was the same. First, the lights of Stockholm fading away, then 
the sheen of the ice on the Gulf of Bothnia, then the Finnish forests 
like ink stains against miles of frozen fields and lakes. After about 
an hour and a half, the pilot dropped a flare which made a pink 
streak through the darkness. Suddenly, far below, a circle of lights 
went on like candles round a huge birthday cake. A notice flashed 
in front of the plane: "Landing Fasten your Belts," and a few 
minutes later our wheels were running along the icy field. 

We were led to a small wooden shack where our baggage was 
examined. Two elderly women journalists were waiting to interview 
the passengers; one of them cornered me and asked in an impressed 
voice whether I had come all the way from America to cover the 
war in Finland. When I replied no, only London, she said: "Oh." I 
could tell by her expression I was no longer front-page copy. 

When the baggage was inspected a bus drove us to the station. 
Ordinarily the train trip to Helsinki took about three hours, but as 
the railroad was often bombed we were told the length of the jour- 
ney was uncertain. At any rate, the train was a pleasant surprise. 
I had prepared to freeze to death, but now found myself sweltering 
on a centrally-heated train. It was so hot I peeled off three sweaters. 
The next surprise was the dining-car. I had expected to go hungry, 
too, but instead I had an enormous dinner: soup, meat, vegetables, 
and all the bread and butter I could eat. 

Besides the German photographer, there were two Finnish soldiers 
and a Swedish woman in our compartment. The latter kept asking 


the conductor nervously what time we were due to arrive. The con- 
ductor was a large man with a melancholy voice. His reply was 
always the same, but despatched with an air of profound wisdom: 
"One can never tell." 

I soon found out what he meant, for shortly after midnight there 
was a screeching of brakes, the train came to a jarring stop, and the 
conductor shouted to everyone to clear off the train and take cover 
in the woods. We climbed down the embankment in snow several 
feet deep, only to have him shout a few minutes later that it was all 
a mistake, the planes were not coming after all, and now we could 
climb back again. We arrived in Helsinki at two in the morning 
without further excitement. There were no porters or taxi-cabs, so 
we had to walk to the hotel, about a mile away; the German photog- 
rapher carried my bag and I thought what a fine thing it was to be 
the female of the species. 

Twenty-four hours later, I took a trip along the coast to Hango. 
Here I saw for the first time what continuous and relentless bomb- 
ing was like. The deep quiet of the snowbound countryside was 
broken by the wail of sirens five or six times a day as wave after 
wave of Soviet bombers sometimes totalling as many as five hun- 
dred came across the Gulf of Finland from their bases in Estonia, 
only twenty minutes away. All along the coast I passed through vil- 
lages and towns which had been bombed and machine-gunned; in 
Hango, the Finnish port which the Soviets demanded in their ultima- 
tum, twenty buildings had been hit, and when I arrived, ten were 
still burning. 

It is difficult to describe indiscriminate aerial warfare against a 
civilian population in a country with a temperature thirty degrees 
Fahrenheit below zero. But if you can visualize farm girls stumbling 
through snow for the uncertain safety of their cellars; bombs falling on 
frozen villages unprotected by a single anti-aircraft gun; men stand- 
ing helplessly in front of blazing buildings with no apparatus with 
which to fight the fires, and others desperately trying to salvage their 
belongings from burning wreckage if you can visualize these 
things and picture even the children in remote hamlets wearing white 


covers over their coats as camouflage against low-flying Russian ma- 
chine-gunners you can get some idea of what this war was like. 

I left Helsinki early in the morning with two Swedish journalists. 
We travelled in a white camouflaged Press car, driven by a six-foot- 
two police officer in a huge reindeer cap with two revolvers strapped 
to his belt. He drove forty miles an hour along the hard, shining white 
road, but ice formed so thickly against the car he had to stop every 
few minutes to pour glycerine over the windscreen. We passed miles 
of frozen lakes, desolate white fields, and endless forests. Although 
we were smothered in sheepskin coats and fur rugs, the cold was so 
intense we stopped at village restaurants every half -hour for coffee. 

As we neared Ekkinas, a small town not far from Hango, two 
sentries sprang into the middle of the road and waved at us to stop. 
They shouted that the Russian planes were coming, and told us to 
run for shelter. When we got out we heard the whine of engines and, 
straining our eyes against the sky, counted nearly twenty silver 
specks. We ran across a field and into the cellar of a farmhouse; there 
were already a dozen people there, several women, the rest farm 
labourers. The brick ceiling was so low, most of them were sitting 
on the floor between sacks of potatoes, jars of preserved fruit, and 
huge pails of milk. There was no trace of alarm, only a quiet weari- 
ness. An elderly farmer, evidently the head of the household, told us 
that the day before they had spent six hours in the shelter; more than 
200 planes had flown over the village and dropped nearly 150 bombs. 
Most of the bombs had landed in the fields and lakes and only three 
houses had been hit. Fortunately, they were empty and no one had 
been hurt. He spoke dispassionately as though the ordeal had been 
an act of nature, as unavoidable as an earthquake. 

The planes soon disappeared and although the "All clear" had not 
sounded our chauffeur said he would go on if we wished to take the 
risk. Ten minutes later, we once again heard the drone of engines. 
We left the car on the roadside and scrambled for the protection of 
a field until nine bombers, flying very low, passed overhead. 

We arrived in Hango to find that twenty buildings had been hit 
and ten were still burning. Although all except two had been hit the 
day before, great billows of smoke were still rising in the air. The 
roads were littered with mattresses, chairs, and household articles 


which the soldiers had salvaged from the fire. The charred frame- 
work of the houses stood out blackly against the snow, but there 
were no curious pedestrians to inspect the damage, for icy winds 
from the sea swept through the streets. I have never felt such cold. 
A twenty-year old army lieutenant detailed to show us through the 
town forgot to pull down one of his ear tabs, and a few minutes later 
his ear went dead white. One of the Swedish journalists shouted at 
him, and he quickly rubbed it with snow. Half-frozen, we finally 
stumbled into a corner cafe. The proprietor brought us hot meat 
sandwiches and coffee. While he was serving us he informed us 
cheerfully the top floor of the house was on fire. It had been struck 
by an incendiary bomb two hours before. His sons were fighting it, 
and he was confident everything would soon be under control. Some- 
how it was an odd experience to be sipping coffee in a burning build- 
ing; also somewhat of an anachronism trying to get warm in a house 
that was on fire. 

The young Finnish lieutenant had spent considerable time in 
America and spoke English fluently. He was an engineer in ordinary 
life, and now his job was to detonate unexploded bombs. He told us 
he had heard only that morning that his house, some distance away, 
had been bombed and completely destroyed. Fortunately, he had 
sent his wife and children away the previous week. Apart from a few 
reserved remarks he did not discuss the war. It was only when we 
left and wished him good luck that he said, "It will take a miracle to 
save us, but perhaps a miracle will happen." Then, almost beneath 
his breath, " It must happen." This boy was typical of many Finns 
with whom we talked. Although they were aware they couldn't hold 
out indefinitely in such an unequal struggle, they clung to a stubborn 
faith that some event, unforeseen though it was, would save them 
from final destruction. 

We drove back to Ekkinas, where we had taken shelter earlier in 
the afternoon, and had dinner in the local inn. The porch was sprayed 
with machine-gun bullets, but the joviality of the atmosphere sug- 
gested a mining town in a boom period rather than war. The room 
was crowded with soldiers, police officials, and strapping men in fur 
caps and huge reindeer boots. There was no shortage of food; plates 
of hors d'ceuvres meat, potatoes, and large bowls of butter. On the 


wall was a picture of General Mannerheim, still decorated with holly 
left over from Christmas. One of the soldiers tried to play the gramo- 
phone, but the waitress said it was forbidden; with the music going, 
it was impossible to hear the sirens. 

Our chauffeur, who was the chief police inspector for the district, 
found it impossible to leave for Helsinki before midnight, so we 
spent the evening drinking schnapps with the burgomaster and six 
village officials. The strain of the last few days had been so great, 
the burgomaster said, that now they only wanted to laugh, and the 
conversation was subsequently maintained at a high pitch of hilarity. 
Members of the party took turns in relating amusing incidents that 
had occurred during the raids. Someone passed a bag of sugar around 
the table, and everyone laughed very much because the shop printed 
on the cover had been blown up that very morning. 

We left for Helsinki at one o'clock and the climax of the trip was 
yet to come. The temperature had now dropped to 36 Fahrenheit 
below zero. The night was brilliantly clear, and the sky glittered with 
a thousand stars. With only dim blue headlights on the car and the 
ice forming thickly on the windscreen, the driver had difficulty in 
distinguishing where the road ended and the white fields began. We 
had driven for nearly two hours and I was half asleep when suddenly 
there was a deafening crash and our car skidded across the road and 
landed, still upright, against a tree. We had hit an empty white truck 
which had been left standing by the roadside with no lights. 

Our car was badly wrecked the windows broken, the radiator 
and headlights smashed but fortunately no one was hurt. We 
climbed out, to find ourselves confronted with endless miles of deso- 
late forests and frozen fields. It was four o'clock in the morning and 
there was little prospect of anyone passing for many hours. It was 
so cold the chauffeur said it was best to keep moving, and we started 
walking along the road. 

We were lucky, for after a mile or so we caught sight of a dim 
glow far across the fields. We walked across country in snow several 
feet deep, and finally numb and exhausted, reached a large barn. We 
pushed the door open to find lights blazing and over a hundred sleek 
brown cows being milked by a bevy of farm girls. One of the milk- 
maids led us np to the big house and ran to awaken her mistress. A 


few minutes later the lady of the house appeared, a middle-aged 
woman, immaculately groomed, with a string of pearls around her 
neck, and apparently unperturbed by the fact that it was five in the 
morning. She spoke English fluently, sympathized over our plight, 
brought us dozens of blankets, and soon a log fire was roaring and 
a tea-kettle humming on the stove. 

She said the weather had not been so cold for many years, but 
added it was to the advantage of the Finnish Army; she said it had 
been the same in the terrible winter campaign in the days of Charles 
XII of Sweden, when the Finns had succeeded in repelling the Rus- 
sian onslaught. She told us she had forty evacuees, mostly children, 
staying in the house, and that scarcely a day passed that the Soviet 
bombers had not flown over the house, but it was so isolated she was 
not afraid of bombs. She had told the children, however, to run in- 
doors when they heard the sound of engines, for she feared the 
planes might fly low and machine-gun the roads. 

When a car arrived at seven to take us to Helsinki and we wished 
her good luck, she said quietly: "I believe God will not let us perish 
beneath so terrible a foe; in the end all will be well." 

An hour after we reached Helsinki the sirens were moaning again. 
I was so tired I crawled into bed and went to sleep. 

If you happened to be lunching at the Hotel Torni in Helsinki 
when the air-raid sirens sounded, you could climb up on the roof and 
watch the city crawl into its shell. Between the jumble of ice-covered 
roofs you saw the people running for cover, the snow trucks pulling 
up by the roadside, and the police officers taking their positions on 
the street corners. Soon there was a silence so ominous that you could 
hear a door bang many blocks away. 

Occasionally you saw the grey flash of bombers against the sky, 
but usually the planes flew so high you could hear only the drone 
of the engines. You could count the dull thud of bombs falling as 
far away as ten or fifteen miles; when the air was suddenly shattered 
by a melange of machine-guns, pom-pom guns, and coastal batteries 
all firing at once, you knew the planes were passing over the city. 
Although they flew backwards and forwards several times a day, 


Helsinki had been bombed only once. This was when the Russians, 
aiming for the docks, had smashed several blocks of houses near the 
waterfront. On the whole, the damage was not great. 

Helsinki was not a beautiful city. The long domination of fi*3fc 
Sweden and then Russia had left little imprint, and most of the build- 
ings were modern, square and ugly. Whoever had dubbed it "Tfafe; 
White City of the North" had a truly romantic soul, for the ic?0* 
bound streets, rather than adding glamour, seemed to accentuate a 
bleak and dismal atmosphere. Granted, the war didn't help: the nor- 
mal population of 300,000 had dwindled to 30,000; cars had been 
requisitioned to save petrol and most of the shops were boarded up* 
There were only a few people in the streets. They hurried along, 
bundled up in thick coats and fur caps, walking with their heads 
down against the terrible cold. 

The Hotel Kamp was the capital's wartime centre. When I arrived 
late at night it was deserted. But when I went downstairs the follow- 
ing morning I found it overflowing with a noisy conglomeration of 
people; there were Finnish soldiers, women volunteers, politicians, 
and foreign journalists and photographers of a dozen different tifa 
tionalities. They came stamping in from outside, shaking the snow 
off their boots, their faces beet-red from the cold. Some wore ski 
suits; some sheepskin coats; some leather jackets and windbreakd& 
Most extraordinary were the Swedish women journalists. Every 
paper in Sweden seemed to have sent a "special correspondent" an<l 
there were dozens of them. They all had blonde hair, big blue eyes, 
and wore dainty white fur coats and little white hats that tied under: 
their chins. They looked like the front row of a Cochran chorus, .-f. 

Out of the general confusion I managed to find Webb Miller <rf 
the United Press and had lunch with him. He had just returned frGBp' 
the Mannerheim line and was filled with admiration for the Finnish 
soldiers. "They're the damnedest fighters I've ever seen. They dorfi 
seem to be afraid of anything. And talk about improvisation the$ ? 
invent their weapons as they go along. They've got a new trick which 
is to tie a mine to the end of a string, then hide in a ditch until one 
of the Russian tanks comes along and jerk it across the road. I talked 
with a soldier who'd accounted for three thirty-ton tanks this way!" 

I pressed Webb with questions about the war and he told me the 


only way to understand what was happening was to keep in mind 
that two wars were taking place. The first war was the regular trench 
warfare, based on Western front methods, being fought behind the 
ilfetocrheim defences on the Karelian Isthmus; the second war was 
tfee guerrilla fighting waged through the forests on all the other 
fronts in Finland. In the trench war, the Russian attack on the Man- 
jierheim Line had been repulsed; and in the guerrilla war, not only 
had the Russian thrusts been halted, but the Finns, by brilliant strat- 
egy and ferocious courage, had succeeded in wiping out entire 

' ..It was the second week in January and fighting on the Isthmus 
had come to a temporary halt; I therefore decided to travel to the 
north and try to see something of the forest patrols. However, when 
{filed an application at the Finnish Press Bureau I had a nasty shock. 
a a trip to Viipuri the day before a Swedish woman journalist had 
reported that one of the Finnish Press officers had made advances 
towards her. The authorities, exasperated, had promptly slapped 
down the rule that no more women could visit the front. My heart 
sank and I wondered if I had come all the way from England merely 
to sit in Helsinki. Fortunately, my apprenticeship in Spain helped 
ftlfe; after a series of telegrams to the Finnish Minister in London, I 
finally received permission to travel to Rovienemi, the capital of Lap- 
ktnd, where the press headquarters for the northern section was 

fit left with Harold Denny, the New York Times correspondent, 
; '4ft$W^ I had known in Moscow. The trip took twenty-four hours; 
''ppwght we found ourselves in a world of white forests and glassy 
lakes. When we reached Rovienemi we were a mile and half from the 
Arctic Circle. 


Chapter II 



laden down with sleeping-bags, knapsacks and typewriters, who 
jumped off the train at every stop and bolted into the station restau- 
rants to gulp down cups of hot coffee I never discovered. We all 
knew the Finnish word for coffee kahvi, that was easy; and we 
could all count up to four because it sounded like: "Ooxie, coxie, 
call me, nellie." Beyond that we had to rely on gestures or go behind 
the counter and help ourselves. 

When at last we reached a rather primitive hotel in the small town 
of Kajaani, the proprietress looked at us in bewilderment, as though 
we were part of a travelling circus. Soon, I think she decided a lunatic 
asylum was more likely, for during the next forty-eight hours her 
telephone rang with calls from New York, Amsterdam and Copen- 
hagen, and everybody sat up all night typing out endless stories. Be- 
sides Harold Denny and myself, there were Walter Kerr of the 
Herald Tribune; Edward Ward of the B.B.C.; Desmond Tlghe of 
Renter's; and Ebbe Munck, a Danish journalist. 

Kajaani served as G.H.Q. for the Central Command. There in the 
slender waistline of Finland, some of the fiercest battles of the war 
were taking place. During the previous seven weeks, over a hundred 
thousand Russian troops had crossed the frontier, in repeated at- 
tempts to cut Finland in two. But the Finns had repulsed the on- 
slaughts with some of the most spectacular fighting in history; they 
had annihilated entire divisions and hurled back others thirty and 
forty miles to the border from where they started. 

To understand how they did it, you must picture a country of 
thick snow-covered forests and ice-bound roads. You must visualize 



heavily-armed ski patrols sliding like ghosts through the woods; 
creeping behind the enemy lines and cutting their communications 
until entire battalions were isolated, then falling on them in furious 
surprise attacks. In this part of Finland skis out-manoeuvred tanks, 
sleds competed with lorries, and knives even challenged rifles. 

The evening we arrived in Kajaani we dined with General Tuompo, 
the brilliant fifty-year-old ex- journalist general, who had begun his 
military career only ten or twelve years previously and who, before 
the Finnish war was over, took a toll of nearly eighty-five thousand 
Russian lives. He arranged for us to visit a front line position on the 
Russian-Finnish frontier, where we saw the patrols at work and had 
our first taste of Soviet artillery fire. We started off with the idea of, 
perhaps, accompanying one of the Finnish border patrols on a quick 
jaunt into Russia and back. Not that any of us imagined the frozen 
Russian landscape would prove interesting, but we all thought it 
would be fun to step into the Soviet Union without the formality 
of getting a visa. 

Accompanied by a Finnish army lieutenant, we left at four o'clock 
in the morning, hoping to arrive at the front before dawn. But the 
roads were so slippery our car skidded into the ditch three times, 
delaying us considerably; it gave us a small idea of what the mechan- 
ized Russian units were up against. We approached the village of 
Suomussalmi just as dawn was breaking, and here I witnessed the 
most ghastly spectacle I have ever seen. 

It was in this sector that the Finns, a few weeks previously had 
annihilated two Russian divisions of approximately 30,000 men. The 
road along which we drove was still littered with frozen Russian 
corpses, and the forests on either side had become known as "Dead 
Man's Land." Perhaps it was the beauty of the morning that made 
the terrible Russian debacle all the more ghastly when we came upon 
it. The rising sun had drenched the snow-covered forests, with trees 
like lace valentines, with a strange pink light that seemed to glow for 
miles. The landscape was marred only by the charred framework of 
a house; then an overturned truck and two battered tanks. Then we 
turned a bend in the road and came upon the full horror of the scene. 
For four miles the road and forests were strewn with the bodies of 
men and horses; with wrecked tanks, field kitchens, trucks, gun- 


carriages, maps, books, and articles of clothing. The corpses were 
frozen as hard as petrified wood and the colour of the skin was 
mahogany. Some of the bodies were piled on top of each other like 
a heap of rubbish, covered only by a merciful blanket of snow; 
others were sprawled against the trees in grotesque attitudes. 

All were frozen in the positions in which they had died. I saw one 
with his hands clasped to a wound in his stomach; another struggling 
to open the collar of his coat; and a third pathetically clasping a 
cheap landscape drawing, done in bright, childish colours, which 
had probably been a prized possession that he had tried to save when 
he fled into the woods. They were everywhere, hundreds and hun- 
dreds of grotesque wooden corpses; in the ditches, under the trees, 
and even in dugouts beneath the snow where they had tried to escape 
from the fury of the attack. I learned, with a shock, that they had 
been members of the 44th Division the same division that just a 
year ago I had seen swinging along the country roads in the Ukraine. 

What these troops must have suffered in the cold was not difficult 
to imagine. They were wearing only ordinary knitted hoods with 
steel helmets over them, and none of them had gloves on. This was 
accounted for by the fact that the Russians didn't wear "trigger 
finger" mittens as the Finns did; they wore only ordinary mittens 
which they had to take off to fire their rifles. And how they must 
have suffered from hunger; the horses had even eaten the bark off 
the trees. 

I was staggered by the amount of equipment they had brought 
with them. Although the Finns had hauled away all the usable stuff 
the ditches were still gutted with battered lorries, machine-guns, 
bayonets, helmets even an amphibian tank which seemed pretty 
useless in a country of frozen lakes. Our Finnish officer told us for 
at least a week after the battle it was impossible to drive down the 
road at all. As it was, our chauffeur had to thread his way along the 
four-mile stretch slowly. Near the end of it, we passed a group of 
Finnish boys playing in the roadside, curiously prodding the corpses. 
They had taken one of the bodies and stuck it head down in the 
snow; all we could see was two brown stems with boots at the end. 
I was very nearly ill. 

About an hour later we reached our destination. A sentry in a 


white cloak stepped out of the forest into the roadway and motioned 
us to stop. The car was backed into a clearing between the trees, and 
as we followed our guide through the twisting paths the woods sud- 
denly became alive with stalwart Finnish soldiers, only their black 
rifles visible against the snow, moving noiselessly in and out among 
the trees. 

The major's hut was built of logs, half underground, and covered 
with snow. The camouflage was so clever the only way we knew 
we had arrived was by the skis stacked up against the trees. We 
crawled in the shelter, which had two beds in it, a long desk cov- 
ered with maps, and a small stove that kept the temperature at thirty 
degrees. The major, a strapping man with a red face, greeted us in 
halting English and told us breakfast was ready; he motioned us to 
a table laden with coffee, bread and butter, reindeer meat, cheese 
and pickled fish. A few minutes later we were interrupted by the 
whine of an engine, which broke into a loud roar as a plane passed 
only a few hundred feet above our heads. The major said the Rus- 
sian planes patrolled the forests for several hours each day and often 
did a considerable amount of machine-gunning. "That's what *we 
want planes." Then he asked us if we thought the outside world 
would send any to Finland and searched our faces eagerly for our 
replies. "If only," he murmured, "those kind old ladies in America 
who send us comforts could knit us some aeroplanes and crochet us 
some anti-tank guns." 

When we asked him if there was any possibility of our sneaking 
across the frontier into Russia, he smiled and said he would send us 
up to the observation-post, where we could have a look at the situa- 
tion, and if we still wanted to go it was ours for the asking. He then 
detailed a captain to look after us. 

The captain's hut was some distance away; it was made of beaver- 
board built around the trunk of a tree so that the smoke from the 
stove would be diffused by the thick branches. The captain was a 
gay fellow who showed us with great relish the huge Russian sam- 
ovar he had captured in the Suomussalmi battle. He also had a pair 
of field-glasses he had taken from a Russian officer, but his most 
prized possession was a machine-gun from a Russian tank. He said 
every time a plane went by he took a pot shot at it; adding that it 


wasn't exactly his business, but with the gun so handy it was diffi- 
cult to resist. 

The captain led us through the woods to the observation-post. It 
was some distance away and we were accompanied by a ski patrol 
of eight men equipped with rifles and wicked-looking machine 
pistols. They slipped in and out through the trees like wraiths, manag- 
ing their skis with astonishing agility. One moment they slipped be- 
hind the trees and we thought they were lost; a few seconds later 
they were on the path in front of us. 

The observation-post was just a shallow pit dug in the snow; in it 
there was an observer with a pair of field-glasses and a telephone. 
But we did not need glasses to see the Soviet Union. Only three hun- 
dred yards away across an icebound lake lay the frozen landscape 
of Russia. 

We had been in the pit only a few minutes when Finnish artillery 
in our rear opened fire. The shells rushed past only a few yards over 
our heads; they landed in the lake in front of us and a fountain of 
ice and snow shot up. The observation officer corrected the range 
on the telephone and soon they were disappearing neatly into the 
trees on the other side. The Russians were not slow to reply, and a 
few minutes later the air resounded to the nasty whistle of incoming 
shells, and the pine trees sang with the low moan of grenades and 
the thud of mortars. Twice tree branches, chipped by grenades, fell 
on top of us, and when two shells landed only twenty yards away, 
wounding two Finnish soldiers, the captain decided we had better 
go back to the hut. He told us to leave in pairs, so the Russians 
wouldn't spot us; my heart pounded as we made our way through 
the woods with the shells exploding on either side of the path. I 
thought: Russian guns may have lost their prestige, but they can 
still frighten me. 

Before we left, the captain gave us a cup of tea. While we were 
drinking it a husky Finnish soldier crawled into the shelter. His 
cheeks were red with the cold, but his blue eyes shone with excite- 
ment. He had just come in from a five-hour patrol behind the Rus- 
sian lines, and had penetrated as far back as three miles. He took out 
a map and explained to the captain the various changes in the enemy 
positions. We learned that the boy was a farmer in ordinary life, and 


had distinguished himself as one of the bravest men in the patrol. 
The captain said that during the Suomussalmi battle he had destroyed 
a tank by jumping on top of it, forcing the lid open with a crowbar, 
and throwing a grenade inside. A few minutes later another soldier 
came into the hut to say that a Russian patrol of two hundred men 
was heading towards the Finnish lines. The captain ordered him to 
start out with a detachment and meet them on the way. 

We could see that things were going to be pretty busy soon, so we 
decided it was best to leave. Outside, a group of soldiers were already 
strapping on their rifles and adjusting their skis. When we shook 
hands with the captain, he said: "Well, what about Russia? If you 
want to join the patrol just starting out, you have my permission." 

We thanked him very much, but I, for one, said I was quite 
happy where I was. 

How had the Finnish Army, with a force of scarcely more than 
300,000 men, been able so far to stem the sweep of the Russian tide? 
I think it was due first to a free people fighting, with a courage never 
surpassed, against an Asiatic despotism for their homes, their liberties 
and their lives; second, to the brilliant strategy of the Finnish military 
leaders; third, to the natural obstacles of the terrain which was broken 
by 70,000 lakes and three-quarters covered with forests; fourth, to 
Soviet blunders. 

From a military point of view, the Russian onslaught will be 
studied as one of the most fantastic campaigns in history. All through 
the north the Russian High Command ignored the elementary neces- 
sity of keeping open its lines of communications. Thousands of Rus- 
sian soldiers were sent into the wilds of Finland to be isolated from 
their bases and swallowed up by the forests. This extraordinary stu- 
pidity was hard to understand. The only explanation was that Russia 
had reckoned on a blitzkrieg lasting only a few days and had organ- 
ized the campaign accordingly. The first divisions had been equipped 
with an enormous amount of propaganda, banners and pennants, 
which they had expected to distribute among a vanquished people; 
and in the north, a Division entered with a brass band, actually ex- 
pecting to be welcomed by the people it had been sent to "liberate." 


The reason the Kremlin was so greatly misinformed as to the political 
stamina of Finland may have been due to the fact that Soviet observ- 
ers were afraid to reveal the true state of affairs for fear of being 
shot as saboteurs. 

For days I was haunted by the scene of those frozen, twisted bodies 
of the 44th Division. But the story of this division (one of those, 
incidentally, which invaded Poland in September) was typical of 
the whole blundering strategy for which the dictatorship of the pro- 
letariat now paid freely with the lives of the proletariat. It had crossed 
into Finland on December the thirtieth to relieve the i63rd Division, 
which was cut off, without supplies, near the small village of Suomus- 
salmi. It marched twenty miles along a hard, snow-packed road cut 
through the heart of the forest, but was unable to join forces with 
the other, six miles away; across a roadless country. The Finns suc- 
ceeded in first routing the i63rd, then turned their attention to the 
44th; they cut off its supplies, and five days later attacked and anni- 
hilated the entire division. 

Before we left Kajaani, one of the Finnish Press officers took us to 
an interment camp at Pelso, where we heard a version of the battle 
from a high ranking officer of the 44th Division, who had been 
captured by the Finns. The officer was a clean-shaven man of middle 
age who had served with the Red Army for twenty-two years. The 
Finnish warden requested that we withhold his name and rank, and 
informed the prisoner he was not obliged to answer any questions 
unless he wished. 

The officer, however, gave an account of the battle which dove- 
tailed completely with the Finnish version. He said the division was 
cut off on January 2 and was without food until the final debdcle 
on the yth. The only supplies they received were six bags of hard 
tack dropped by plane. He told us that on January 2nd several of 
the officers begged the Commanding General, Vinogradov, to re- 
treat, but the latter replied it was impossible without an order from 
the Kremlin. And the order came too late. 

The officer made three points of interest: he declared that the 
Army had been misinformed as to Finnish resistance, many of the 
leaders actually believing they were entering to liberate Finnish 
people, that the Army was badly organized for a severe campaign, 


and that the Russian troops, superstitious by nature, were particularly 
unsuited to the Finnish terrain as they were mortally afraid of the 
dark forests. 

When I questioned him regarding the commissar system, he re- 
plied evasively that the commissars were necessary to infuse the 
soldiers with the proper spirit. I asked what he thought the final out- 
come of the war would be, and he hesitated; it was only when the 
warden bade him give an honest opinion that he replied he felt the 
Soviet Union, with its preponderance of men and material, was 
bound to conquer in the end. 

Out of the 44th Division of 18,000 men there were only a few 
hundred survivors. We went through the jail and talked with them, 
accompanied by the warden and a Russian interpreter. In the first 
room there was a group of thirty or forty dressed in their brown 
tunic uniforms and high felt boots. Many had frozen hands and feet, 
wrapped in bandages; but compared to their comrades, lying in heaps 
along the roadside, they were lucky. They stood up when we entered 
the room but there was no sullenness or reticence about them; their 
eyes lighted up with friendly interest and they seemed pleased to 
have visitors. As a group of soldiers of a crack division, however, 
they were a pathetic lot. Most of them were small of stature, with 
low foreheads and ugly features. Their intelligence was so elemen- 
tary I was torn between pity and revulsion for the civilization their 
Government was so eager to extend. Some of the prisoners stared at 
us dumbly with melancholy brown eyes; others interrupted each 
other in a rush of conversation. 

When I questioned them about the war they replied that they 
had been mobilized to repel a Finnish invasion of Russia. Some of 
them said they now realized they had been grossly misinformed, but 
I was astounded to find that many of them were still unaware of the 
fact that they had been captured on Finnish territory; they thought 
the battle of Suomussalmi had been fought "somewhere in the North 
of Russia." 

When we questioned them about general conditions in Russia, a 
small, wiry little man with a black beard became the self-appointed 
spokesman of the group by silencing his comrades with menacing 
looks. With typical Slav cunning, he answered the questions in a 


manner which he thought best likely to please. He denounced the 
Soviet Union with such an exaggerated emphasis and paid the Finns 
compliments of so lavish a nature that his replies were obviously 

The second room into which I was taken was filled with Russian 
lorry drivers who had been in the Army Service Corps attached to 
the 44th Division. Most of them, I discovered, had never had any 
military training of any kind; they were merely truck drivers picked 
up oif the streets of Kiev. They spoke bitterly of the fact that they 
had been mobilized and, pointing to one of the group, said, "And 
look at Feodor. He is over forty years of age with a wife and many 
children.'* Feodor seemed pleased to have the spotlight turned on 
him and nodded his head emphatically, declaring that, indeed, he 
was forty-two years old and had never heard the sound of a gun 
until he found himself driving a supply truck on the Suomussalmi 

The most amazing story of all, however, was from the Russian 
nurse with whom I talked. This twenty-three-year-old girl, the only 
woman prisoner in Finland, was captured when the Finns routed the 
1 63rd Division. She was a girl of medium size, with broad Slavic 
features and eyes which were filled with sadness. She wore a wool 
dress provided for her by the Finns; her only other clothes was the 
man's army uniform she had been wearing when captured. 

A few months before, she had been living quietly in Leningrad 
with her husband and small child; then she received a mobilization 
order. Thinking it was only for the autumn manoeuvres, she was not 
particularly worried. In November, however, she was attached to the 
1 63rd Division and a month later forced to cross into Finland. Al- 
though miserable and frightened, she was sent, with two other nurses, 
to a front-line first-aid post. The other nurses were wounded and 
removed to a field hospital behind the lines; when the retreat came, 
the girl was unable to get back to the base and for twenty-four hours 
wandered through the woods with a Russian doctor. The pair were 
finally picked up by a Finnish patrol on the shores of a lake. 

The bodies of the other two nurses were later found by the Finns 
in the field hospital an old farmhouse alongside the corpses of 
hundreds of soldiers. Ebbe Munck, who had visited this hospital 


four days after the retreat, told me it was a ghastly sight. The yard 
at the back of the house was piled with naked bodies; when patients 
had died, the Russian doctors had simply thrown the corpses out of 
the window to make way for newcomers. Inside, hundreds of 
wounded men had died in their beds; when the order to retreat came, 
they had been abandoned. Ebbe said a man had even been left, half 
cut open, on the operating table. 

When the Finnish warden heard this story, he remarked bitterly: 
"And that's the civilization they want to bring to Finland." 


Chapter III 


usually the safest travelling. When Harold Denny, Desmond Tighe 
and I started out from Rovienemi on a two-hundred-mile drive 
through the Arctic, we left at two o'clock in the morning. The 
temperature was thirty-two degrees below zero, which was con- 
sidered a moderate day. I wore a ski-ing suit, a windbreaker, a sheep- 
skin coat, eight sweaters, four pairs of socks, three mufflers, two 
pairs of gloves, and somehow survived. A mile and half outside 
Rovienemi we passed a large white sign tacked to a tree. We flashed a 
light on it and saw, written in English, German, Swedish and Fin- 
nish: "Arctic Circle." 

When the Soviets slid over the world's roof-top from the Petsamo 
port on the Arctic Ocean, they began the coldest war in history. 
Never before had war been waged so far north. Soon the icebound 
forests, scarcely inhabited save for herds of reindeer, rang with the 
sound of rifle bullets and the crackle of machine-gun fire. The Rus- 
sians advanced sixty miles down the "Great Arctic Highway," but in 
spite of repeated attempts to penetrate farther along the road 
which swept down through Lapland to the centre of Finland they 
were checked by Finnish patrols working in the deep forests through 
which the Highway was cut. 

The Finnish front line was a series of patrol tents and machine-gun 
posts scattered through the woods. Every time the Russian mechan- 
ized columns tried to advance along the road, the Finns crept through 
the forests and cut their lines; sometimes blocking the icy road by 
knocking out a tank, sometimes laying mines and cutting off their 
supplies in the rear. 



When the three of us started out from Rovienemi to visit this 
front, accompanied by Hugo Makinen a Finnish Press officer 
fellow journalists who had already made the trip told us we wouldn't 
get much "copy"; the fighting had more or less come to a stalemate. 
Not to discourage us they added that the scenery was well worth 
observing and assured us we could all write very nice little pieces on 
Old Mother Nature. As it turned out, the trip was one of the most 
uncomfortable any of us had made. The Russians chose this particular 
moment to open up an intensive bombing attack on the Arctic High- 
way, to prevent Finnish reinforcements from reaching the front. 

At first, things were quiet. We drove all night through desolate 
white forests, the Northern Lights making eerie patterns against the 
sky; for five hours we didn't pass a single car or see any sign of life 
except for an occasional reindeer that ran across the roads startled 
by our headlights. As dawn was breaking we stopped at a farmhouse 
for breakfast. 

The family consisted of a farmer and his wife, a little girl of ten 
and two boys about fourteen. They lighted a fire, brought us coffee 
and rolls, then gave us an account of the bombings of the last few 
days. In the midst of the conversation the telephone rang, and one 
of the boys came back with the news that the morning raids had 
begun and three planes were now headed in our direction. (There 
were no sirens in the district and it was up to the operator to warn 
everyone.) There was a scramble for coats and the little girl, who 
seemed to regard it as a great joke, led us out of the house through 
the woods to a large pine tree. Underneath the branches was a small 
tent with four rugs inside. 

A few minutes later we heard the sound of engines and three 
bombers appeared, flying fairly low. When the planes were over the 
house, one of them swooped down with a loud roar; there was a 
burst of explosives that sounded like a bunch of giant fire-crackers, 
followed by the staccato noise of machine-gun bullets. When the 
planes passed we ran back to the house to see what damage had been 
done and found that the bombs had landed in a field twenty or thirty 
yards away. A few seconds later a boy came ski-ing breathlessly up 
the road. 

We discovered it was he and not the farmhouse that had been the 


target. He had forgotten his white coat and the Russians evidently 
had spotted him moving against the snow. They had dropped eigh- 
teen small bombs, then tried to machine-gun him. It seemed an ex- 
travagant gesture to say the least. Desmond commented dryly: "If 
that's any indication of the lines along which Soviet economy is run, 
no wonder there are hungry people in Moscow." 

Although there was a large and comfortable inn at Ivalo some 
fifty or sixty miles away, "Mak," our Press officer, refused to travel 
along the road until dark. As brave as lions on the battlefield, the 
Finns were almost foolishly overcautious on the home front. When 
the air raid sirens sounded, whether you liked it or not, you were 
pushed into a shelter. In Helsinki, the journalists wore special badges 
allowing them to move about, but on a trip you were at the mercy 
of your press officer. It seemed to us our chances were just as good 
one place as another, but we were unable to persuade "Mak" of this, 
and didn't continue our journey until late afternoon. 

It was the most uncomfortable day I have ever spent, for the 
farmer was convinced the planes were after his house and would soon 
return to bomb it. Every time the telephone rang with a warning he 
insisted we take cover under the pine tree in the yard. We pleaded 
and argued, but it was to no avail each time we were pushed out 
into the bitter cold. A good five hours crouched under a tree in the 
snow gave us a small idea of what life had become in Finland. 

We finally reached Ivalo in time for dinner. It was a small road- 
junction village that had the distinction of being the most bombed 
spot in Finland; nearly four thousand bombs had been dropped on it, 
but most of them had landed in the fields and lakes and surprisingly 
few houses had been destroyed. The village was almost entirely evac- 
uated, but the local store was still doing business; you could buy 
chocolates and raisins. 

The inn where we dined was run for road workers who were pa- 
trolling and repairing the highway. The atmosphere was like a huge 
lumber camp; half a dozen girls bent over large cauldrons helping 
with the cooking, while streams of men came stamping in from the 
cold, rubbing their hands and shaking snow from their boots. Every- 
one ate in the kitchen because it was wanner nearer the stove, and 


we all sat down at table together for a dinner of reindeer steak, 
boiled potatoes and milk. 

Just as we were ready to leave there was an air-raid alarm. Harold, 
Desmond and I looked at each other and groaned. We urged Hugo 
to let us go on, anyway, but he shook his head stubbornly. A gong 
resounded through the inn, the girls put on their coats, picked up 
their blankets and led the way to the shelter. The shelter was made 
of logs buried deep beneath the snow. The temperature must have 
been forty degrees below zero, but Harold, Desmond and I seemed 
to be the only ones who minded, for the girls kept up a spirited flow 
of conversation as though they were out on a party. We sat there 
for two hours, while we counted the thud of twenty-five bombs. 

When the all-clear finally sounded, Hugo telephoned to army 
headquarters and asked what the situation was. He came back with 
a grave face and told us the Russians were bombing the road all the 
way up to the front. We didn't know it then, but the Russians were 
preparing a new offensive; the Arctic Highway was the only road 
over which supplies could be sent to the Finnish soldiers, and this 
was the beginning of a desperate attempt to cut them off. "Mak" 
wanted to turn back, but we begged him to go on. Not that any of 
us were particularly brave, but, after driving a hundred and fifty 
miles and suffering hours of boredom and cold, to return to Rovie- 
nemi without a story seemed unthinkable. 

We finally got our way, and the drive not a pleasant one. To 
begin with, although "Mak" was more than particular where air- 
raid shelters were concerned, he allowed the chauffeur to drive with 
his headlights full on. As ours appeared to be the only lights in the 
entire Arctic forest, it seemed likely they would be noticed. With 
the engine running and the windows closed, it was impossible to 
hear the sound of aeroplanes, so we had to stop every few miles, get 
out of the car, and listen. We passed through an isolated stretch of 
woods, and as we neared a farmhouse a group of men stepped into 
the path of our lights and waved us frantically to stop. One of them 
told us another alarm had sounded and the bombers were near. We 
decided to take cover in a field as soon as we heard the engines, and 
began walking up the road to keep warm. 

It was a strange night, with the stillness of the forest broken only 


by the low sound of men's voices, with the snow-covered pine-trees 
taking queer shapes in the darkness, and the Northern Lights playing 
across the sky like gigantic searchlights. I was looking at the sky 
when suddenly I noticed the largest star I had ever seen. I thought 
it was a peculiarity of the Arctic until a second one appeared. One 
of the men ran up and told us the Russians were dropping parachute 
flares to illuminate the countryside. Nowadays, when London is 
bombed, there are dozens of flares in the sky, but these were the 
first any of us had seen; moving slowly earthwards, with a terrible 
beauty that lighted the way for destruction, they seemed almost un- 
canny. The farmhouse telephone rang, warning us the planes were 
headed in our direction. There was no shelter, so a sentry led us 
across the road to a small bridge two feet above the frozen lake and 
told us to crawl under. First I went, then Desmond, then Harold, 
then half a dozen Finns. 

Desmond's last assignment had been in Egypt. "If anyone had 
prophesied two months ago I'd soon be lying on the ice in the middle 
of the Arctic Circle," he gasped. "I would have told them to have their 
heads examined." All Harold could say: "My God, and we're paid 
to have brains." Fortunately, we didn't have to stay there long, for 
the roar of motors grew loud, then soft again, as the planes headed 
eastwards. We crawled out and saw one of them, fully lighted, mov- 
ing across the sky a bitter testimony to Finland's lack of anti- 
aircraft guns. 

We didn't arrive at the front-line sector until the early hours of 
the morning. A sentry was waiting for us in the road. We parked the 
car and walked to a shack some way in the woods. Inside were half 
a dozen officers sitting round a table. They were all over six foot tall, 
rangers who'd spent most of their lives in the forest. The Major 
apologized for the delays we' d had in arriving and "Mak" translated 
his remark: "When we get some anti-aircraft guns we'll promise to 
keep the Highway clear." 

The shack was warm and comfortable, but the doors and walls 
were drilled with bullet holes where the Russian planes had machine- 
gunned it. As we were warming ourselves by the fire a woman sud- 
denly appeared from the next room with a pot of coffee and some 
rolls. She was a middle-aged woman, a placid, motherly type. Ordi- 


narily she worked in a shop in Helsinki, but when the war broke 
out had joined up with lottos volunteering for service in Petsamo. 
She had the distinction of being the only woman serving at the 
northernmost post. We asked if she didn't get frightened when the 
planes machine-gunned the house, and the men laughed and said she 
was the calmest of the lot. Then the Major told us in an off-hand 
voice he would be unable to take us any farther up the line as the 
Russians had attacked with two companies at eight o'clock and the 
battle was still going on about a mile away. 

"Where are they headed?" I asked nervously. 

"This way. But don't worry, they won't get through." 

Thank God, I thought, I'm covering this war from the Finnish 
side. I strained my ears for the sound of rifle fire, but could hear 
nothing. I pictured the Finns slipping in and out of the trees, then 
the sudden flash of knives, and wondered how many grotesque corpses 
the morning light would find. The dark, lonely forest seemed terrify- 
ing enough from the inside of a shack, and I pitied the poor creatures 
at the mercy of the stealthy huntsmen. 

We learned that only eight hundred Finns had stemmed the whole 
Russian Army in this neighbourhood. The Major told us that aero- 
planes provided the greatest problem, but added that he had an ex- 
pert machine-gunner who had already shot down three. He showed 
us a brief case belonging to a Russian pilot. Inside was a copy of 
Pravda, a few charts and a card with an elementary multiplication 
printed on it. 

Harold asked if the Russians had learned to ski yet and the Major 
hesitated. "Well. When they're really in a hurry they take off their 
skis and run." Everyone laughed, for there was nothing the Finns 
enjoyed more than jokes at the Russian's expense. 

It seemed strange to be sitting sipping coffee while a life-and-death 
struggle was going on only a mile away. Before we left the telephone 
rang with a message to say it was over and the Russians had been 
driven back. The Major put on his coat, strapped on a rifle and dis- 
appeared into the night. On our way down the road a large white 
ambulance came racing past us and we wondered what the casualties 
had been. 

We spent the next day at a lumber camp a few miles behind the 


front, which "Mak" declared was the safest spot in Finland due to 
the deep shelters. One of the lumbermen's wives offered to give us 
coffee, but the alerts sounded so continuously from dawn till noon 
she never had time to prepare it. We protested to the camp manager, 
asking him if it were necessary to take cover at every warning, and 
he replied: "Indeed it is. The place is packed with dynamite. If a 
single bomb drops, the whole camp is likely to go up." "Mak" looked 
startled, but made no comment. 

We left for Rovienemi at dusk and the trip was uneventful save 
for a final incident. Some miles from Ivalo we heard a wild rumour 
the Russians had dropped a parachute squad in the vicinity and were 
warned to be on the look-out for them. At that time no one took 
the idea of parachute troops seriously; nevertheless, driving through 
a particularly deserted stretch of forest, it was difficult to dismiss it 
completely. Suddenly we turned a bend in the road and saw a man 
standing in the path of our lights. He was wearing a white suit and 
a white helmet. He waved us to stop and the chauffeur drew his 
pistol, got out of the car, and advanced cautiously. 

I needn't say it was a relief to find he was only a Swedish volunteer 
with a motor-cycle that had run out of petrol if you can imagine 
running out of petrol in the middle of the Arctic. 

We siphoned some off into a bottle and waved good-bye. 

Rovienemi had been badly bombed in our absence. The main 
street was a mass of charred timber where the wooden houses had 
burned to the ground, but the principal objective, the bridge across 
the Kemi river, was still intact. 

The proprietor of the Hotel Pohanjovi, where the journalists were 
staying, was badly shaken by the experience. As the Russian bombers 
had a habit of coming back to the same spot for several days run- 
ning, he refused to allow anyone to remain in the hotel during the 
daylight hours. In spite of a good many protests, we were pushed 
out at eight-thirty in the morning and instructed not to come back 
until three. In peace-time Rovienemi was a winter sports centre and 
a few miles from the hotel there was a very good ski run and a large 


pavilion where we could get coffee and sandwiches. There was also 
a shooting range, and once we held a competition. 

As we represented half a dozen different nationalities, we paired 
off in teams and made it a small Olympic Games: England, France, 
Finland, Sweden, America, Germany. The Finns won, and I am 
ashamed to say I let Walter Kerr down so badly America got the 
booby prize. Herbert Uxkull, a Baltic German, who worked for the 
United Press, turned to Eddie Ward and said in a melancholy voice: 

"I suppose you and I really ought to be shooting each other." 

"Good God, why?" 

"The war." 

"The war? Oh, you mean the other war! Come to think of it, I 
suppose we should. Extraordinary how one forgets." 

Extraordinary, I thought, what a mad world it is: that was the 
only time I heard "the other war" mentioned. In fact, it was diffi- 
cult enough to think about the one at hand when you went down 
the ski run with the sky above you a warm thick blue and the sun 
sparkling on the snow. The only thing to remind you of it was the 
odd experience of weaving in and out of the machine-gun emplace- 
ments scattered through the woods. 

I use the word "weave" fancifully, for if I did a quarter of the run 
on my feet I was lucky or, in fact, if I got to my feet at all. 
Once down, I usually stayed down until someone came to my rescue. 
A young Finnish army lieutenant took pity on me and made a 
practice of following me down the run to lend a helping hand. 
Each time I floundered in the snow he pulled me up, saying: "There, 
there, I'm sure you'll do better next time." 

I never did, and on the occasion I needed him the most he wasn't 
there. One day Herbert Uxkull, Eddie Ward and I were ski-ing 
across the frozen Kemi river on our way back to the hotel. The 
river was pitted with bomb holes where the Russians had missed 
their aim at the bridge, and as we were in the middle of it the 
air-raid sirens sounded. We hurried for cover. I tried to kick off 
my skis, but could only unfasten one. I heard the roar of engines; 
Eddie and Herbert shouted at me from the top of the bank, but I 
promptly fell down and got so tangled up I couldn't move at all. 

"For God's sake," shouted Eddie, "can't you cut out the acrobat- 


ies?" He came running down the bank, unfastened my ski and 
pulled me up. The sound of the planes was louder and the three 
of us crawled into a flimsy bathing-hut waiting for a shower of 
bombs. Three planes came roaring overhead only five hundred feet 
from the ground, but to our astonishment we saw they were Finnish 
fighters British Gloster Gladiators flown by Swedish pilots. They 
were the only fighters I saw the whole time I was in Finland; soon 
the all-clear was resounding triumphantly through the town. 

The Russians with their relentless and continuous air attacks were 
evidently trying to copy the methods the Germans had used against 
the Poles. When the Germans attacked Poland they had every 
objective in the country mapped out; the objectives included rail- 
road junctions, roads, bridges, telegraph communications, radio sta- 
tions, telephone buildings, and power plants. After forty-eight hours 
of accurate and intensive bombing they had broken the communica- 
tions from one end of the country to the other and paralysed the 
operations of the enemy. 

In Finland the Russians scored no such great success; after two 
months of bombing, the trains were still running, the roads were 
still intact, and although I drove many miles about the country, I 
never saw a bridge that had received a direct hit. This did not mean 
that the Russians always missed their objectives. They hit many 
roads and railroad tracks, but the Finns, in spite of the need for 
every able-bodied man in the army, realized the importance of keep- 
ing their communications open. Fast-working road patrols were 
organized to repair damage as soon as it had taken place. The thick 
layers of ice on the roads prevented bombs from doing any great 
damage, and the small craters could be quickly filled in with snow. 
As for the railroads, most tracks are built in sections, and it was 
estimated that a hundred men could repair thirty miles of track a 
day. Although train journeys took from four to five times the normal 
time, all through the war you could travel to any point in Finland 
by train and well-heated ones at that. This meant that the distribu- 
tion of food was possible and even out-of-the-way villages were 
well stocked with meat, potatoes, bread, butter and milk. 


In spite of the heavy raids few lives were lost. Day after day there 
were anywhere from five to eight hundred planes over the country, 
yet the casualty lists each night numbered no more than thirty or 
forty people. This was due first to the fact that three-quarters of 
Finland was composed of forests and lakes and the houses were 
widely scattered; and, secondly, that people obeyed the warnings 
and always took refuge in shelters. 

The damage done to property, however, was far greater that I 
had seen after two years of war in Spain. Most of the Finnish houses 
were wooden houses that burned to the ground when they were hit 
by incendiary bombs. The Russians claimed they were bombing 
only military objectives, but the words stretched a long way. Military 
objectives were no longer limited to munition factories, airfields 
and troop concentrations, but appeared to include the entire com- 
munications of the country. Scarcely a town or village could con- 
sider itself immune. For example, the Russians didn't confine them- 
selves to railroad junctions, but claimed that even the railroad lines 
running through the country villages were legitimate objectives. 
When a village was wiped out by bombs wide of their mark, it still 
came under the heading of military operations. 

So many hospitals were hit that the red crosses were removed 
from the roofs. A story went round (I never learned whether or not 
it was true) that when one of the Russian pilots was questioned as 
to why he had bombed a hospital he replied that his commanding 
officer had instructed him to go to a certain town and had marked 
the objective on his map with a red cross. He had taken it literally. 


Chapter IV 



corridors were so jammed with kits, rifles, and greatcoats, it was 
almost impossible to move along them. The soldiers had been home 
on leave and were now returning to the front. They were husky, 
broad-shouldered men in high spirits; a few of them slept, a few 
of them stared silently out of the window, but most of them sat 
laughing and talking, every now and then breaking loudly into the 
chorus of marching songs. We were sorry we couldn't open a 
conversation in Finnish, for they eyed us curiously and offered us 
some dried apricots, bread and sausages. Ed Hartrich dug in his 
pocket and brought out a package of cigarettes; all Ed Beattie 
could contribute was a bar of chocolate, which he found in the 
bottom of his knapsack, left over from the siege of Warsaw. 

It was hot on the train and the air got so close we climbed off 
whenever we could and walked up and down the platform. Once 
we all surged into a restaurant for coffee and sandwiches. The 
windows had been shattered by a bomb explosion and were covered 
over with cardboard. A dim light burned inside and in the semi- 
darkness half a dozen waitresses behind a counter poured out cups 
of coffee, serving the whole lot of us in twenty minutes. 

The troops were evidently on their way to the Isthmus. It was 
the twentieth of February, and three weeks previously the Russians 
had opened up their second big attack against the Mannerheim Line. 
They had prepared an artillery barrage more ferocious than any 
since the World War in a final desperate effort to break through 
the Finnish defences. They had been advancing slowly, and the 
Finns, with their tiny army, were throwing in every available man 


to stem the terrible onslaught. I looked at the faces around me and 
wondered how many would return. 

The Russians had also tried to force the back door to the Isthmus. 
They had sent several divisions north of Lake Ladoga in an out- 
flanking movement to bottle up the Mannerheim Line from the rear. 
But in this sector the Finns had been able to use guerrilla tactics. 
They had attacked and destroyed one division and chopped another 
into small remnants, surrounded and isolated from their bases. Ed 
Beattie, Ed Hartrich and I were now on our way to the G.H.Q. 
of the Lake Ladoga front, near the town of Sortavala, to see the 
spoils of the victory. 

Normally the trip from Helsinki to Sortavala was only a six or 
seven hours' run, but the railroads had been disrupted by bombing 
and the journey took nearly two days. Some of the time we read 
and some of the time just stared out of the window. The great 
sweep of snow was not monotonous; there was an awesome grandeur 
about it, and every now and then you caught a picture which 
stamped itself vividly on your memory. I remember the hospital 
trains moving slowly across the white panorama, the blinds pulled 
down and the red crosses painted on the sides frozen over with ice; 
the freight trains panting into the stations, some of them with cars 
riddled with machine-gun bullets or smashed where bombs had hit 
them. I remember the cavalry train headed for the front; the doors 
of the box-cars were open and we caught a glimpse of the soldiers 
and horses. Some of them stood in the opening huge men with 
brilliant red cheeks, dressed in fur caps and ankle-length coats 
a race of giants going to war. 

In the daylight, with the brilliant blue sky and the sparkling snow, 
it was difficult to feel the drama of the struggle going on, but at 
night a grim curtain fell. We arrived at the town of Pieksamaki as 
it was getting dark, and from there to Elisenvaara, about a hundred 
miles away, we travelled in the wake of terrible destruction. Russian 
planes had been bombing all afternoon, and we were the first train 
to pass through the area since the attack had taken place. Often 
we stopped for several hours at a time while workmen tested the 
rails. We passed through countless villages with only the framework 
of houses silhouetted against the snow; others had collapsed in a 


crazy fashion, and still others were blackened by fire and blast. 
At one of the stations we had such a long wait we made our way 
across the platform and asked the stationmaster for the hotel. He 
was a huge man bundled up in a white coat and hood. He couldn't 
speak English very well; he could only shake his head, point to the 
sky, and say, "Molotov." But we knew what he meant. 

We pulled into Elisenvaara to find the station burning. It was a 
terrible spectacle, for an icy wind had whipped the flames into a 
roaring inferno. They licked the dark sky savagely, turning the 
snow pink for miles around. Men with buckets and hoses were 
trying to get them under control, but it looked a hopeless task. 
The soldiers surged off the train to make another connection, and 
our last glimpse of them was standing on the platform, silhouetted 
against the red night. 

We arrived at Sortavala the following morning. Normally the 
town had a population of thirteen thousand inhabitants, but now 
it was almost deserted. In spite of its gaily-painted pink and white 
houses, it presented a desolate appearance. We passed through street 
after street entirely razed to the ground, with only a forlorn row 
of chimneys and a heap of bricks to mark the spot where houses 
had stood. Although there was little left to bomb, a Finnish press 
officer who met us at the local hotel told us the bombers still came 
over several times a day. 

Unlike most Finns, generally reserved and rather dour, our press 
officer, known to all as "Larry," was a gay young man. He told us 
he had learned English by going to see Al Jolson in "Sonny Boy" 
eighteen times. He drove us out to a country villa, about fifteen 
miles outside the town, which was being used as Press headquarters. 
Here we slept for the next two nights. It was a charming villa on 
the shores of the lake, and in the summer must have been a delightful 
place to live. But in the winter it was a different matter. The wind 
whistled through the thin walls and it was impossible to light any 
of the fires for fear the smoke would attract the enemy's attention. 
"None of the houses around here light fires," "Larry" explained. 
"If the Russians thought people were living in these villas they'd 
be sure to bomb them." When we went outside we were cautioned 
to keep to the path so that we wouldn't leave footprints in the snow. 


In spite of all these precautions the villa was bombed a few days 
after we left and "Larry" informed me cheerfully one of the bombs 
had gone straight through my room. 

"Larry" made arrangements for us to visit the front the day we 
arrived. As the roads were continuously swept by enemy planes it 
was impossible to travel in the daylight and we didn't set out until 
late afternoon. We stopped at G.H.Q. and picked up a Finnish 
army officer a captain who had taken part in the battle. We drove 
through miles of countryside deserted save for an occasional farm- 
house, but as we neared the front we heard the rumble of trucks 
and the jingle of sleighs. We passed a long line of lorries hauling 
back captured field guns, then a column of white-hooded soldiers 
in small, horse-drawn sleds, stacked high with ammunition. For the 
next five miles the road and the woods were alive with Finnish 
soldiers hauling back their war booty. It was getting dark and we 
could only half distinguish the objects that passed us. 

The scene at the front was even more terrible than the "dead 
man's land" of Suomussalmi. The night accentuated the gruesome- 
ness; a full moon shone uncertainly through dark-moving clouds 
and the rising wind moaned through the pine-trees, blowing sudden 
gusts of snow across the roadway like the fitful passage of evil 
spirits. Before us lay the dreadful wreckage of the battle. The road 
was strewn with the hulks of tanks turned half over like giant 
beetles, with field-kitchens, battered lorries and heavy guns. And on 
either side of the road, scattered through the woods, lay hundreds 
of frozen bodies of the dead, shapeless mounds beneath a blanket 
of freshly-fallen snow. 

It was only when you saw the carnage of the battles that you 
realized how deadly and dramatic these forest wars had been. You 
could visualize the Russian columns moving down the roads, every 
now and then the heavy tanks and tractors floundering into the 
snowbanks, blocking the advance for hours; you could picture the 
Russian soldiers, with their deep superstitious fear of the forests, 
clinging in bewilderment to the roadside and the invisible, white- 
coated Finns creeping up from behind the trees to launch their 
attack. I remember one of the Russian prisoners in the internment 


camp, summing it up naively: "The trouble was, we could never 
seethe Finns!" 

We walked for two miles along the road until we turned a bend 
and came within sight of the Russian lines, a dark rolling hill about 
half a mile away. As we trudged along we heard the sharp crack 
of bullets singing through the forests, and every now and then the 
low rumble of artillery. Several times the sky lighted up with a 
sudden flash as the Finnish guns opened up behind us. In the woods 
on either side of the road were hundreds of pits dug under the snow 
and walled by logs, where the Russians had lived. Near one of the 
dug-outs, among a litter of books and cartridge-cases, we found an 
odd object a woman's shoe. We discovered it was a Finnish shoe 
which had probably been looted by one of the soldiers to give as 
a present upon his return to Russia. 

The suffering which the Russian troops must have undergone 
living week after week in the bitterly cold forests wasn't difficult 
to imagine. Their food had given out some time before and for the 
last ten days they had lived on bits of horse-flesh and occasional 
meagre supplies dropped by planes. "But even when we had them 
completely surrounded and their position was hopeless," said the 
Finnish captain, "they refused to surrender." 

This was partly due to the propaganda leaflets dropped by aero- 
planes promising them aid would soon arrive; and partly to the fact 
that Russian soldiers were systematically told that Finns shot their 
prisoners. Carl Meidner, a photographer who was taking pictures 
for Life, told me that when the Finns had brought in a Russian 
prisoner at Salla, he had asked the guard to bring the man into a 
barn so he could photograph him. The Russian walked into the 
shed and when the light of the camera flashed he crumpled to the 
ground in a heap. A few seconds later he rose slowly, rubbing 
himself, with a bewildered expression on his face. He thought he 
had been taken into the barn to be shot; when he was convinced 
he was still intact, he ran up to Carl, clasped his hands and thanked 
him over and over again. 

The Finnish captain led us off the road, a few yards into the woods. 
He said when the attack came many of the Russians huddled together 
like sheep; at one point, five hundred of them, refusing to surrender, 


had been mowed down in a single heap. But the most ghastly sight 
was the dead gun crew. In the moonlight they looked like badly 
executed waxworks: one of them had fallen over the gun carriage, 
his hands still on the lanyard, two of them sprawled against the 
wheels and a fourth lay half propped up against the tree as though 
he were still giving orders. 

"Poor devils!" said the captain with sudden compassion. "I sup- 
pose they didn't even know what they were fighting about." 

Curiously enough, although the Finnish soldiers were waging one 
of the most desperate struggles in history, most of them had little 
hatred for the Russian soldiers. Their feelings were more akin to 
pity. I heard many of them express horror at the fact that the 
enemy was made to advance like cattle on completely hopeless 
attacks. "We don't mind shooting them with rifles," continued the 
captain, "but what's so horrible is when they won't surrender and 
we have to mow the whole lot of them down with machine-guns!" 
I remembered the officer at Suomussalmi who told me on a similar 
occasion that one of his machine-gunners had gone mad and came 
back to the dug-out with tears streaming down his face. 

We walked up the road for two miles. I learned that the Finns 
had used only a few thousand men against two Russian divisions 
numbering about thirty thousand. But the captain seemed much 
more worried about the Russian advance on the Isthmus than in 
his own victory. "We can hold them up in the forests," he said, 
"but on the Isthmus it's a different matter." Then he asked with an 
almost touching anxiety: "Do you think the outside world will be 
disappointed in the Finnish Army?" 

In spite of their fantastic victories, the Finns, a quiet reserved 
people, made no show of bravado. The only thing which they were 
openly gleeful about was the capture of Russian war material. At 
almost every front the officers delightedly showed you their captured 
guns and field-glasses. As we were walking along, the captain found 
a Russian pistol half buried in the snow, and the chauffeur was 
lucky enough to ferret out a rifle. All the way back they discussed 
the relative merits of their newly-acquired weapons, as pleased as 
a couple of children. 

We started back for our villa at Sortavala about midnight. We 


dropped the captain off at headquarters. Before he shook hands 
with me, he pulled a red star out of his pocket a star embossed 
with the hammer and sickle, worn by Russian officers on their caps. 

The first time I'd seen one of these stars was on a train coming 
down from the north. At one of the stops two wounded Finnish 
soldiers climbed on. They had evidently just come from the front, 
for they were still wearing their white capes. One of them had a 
bandage round his head, the other a leg in splints. They sat down 
across from me and nodded politely. Then the second one pointed 
to his leg and said, "Molotov." He didn't leave me in doubt as to 
what had happened to the Russians unlucky enough to have taken 
a shot at him, for he then produced a wallet from his uniform pocket 
and proudly showed me three red stars. He evidently collected them 
with the same fervour that cowboys used to notch their guns. 

The captain handed me the star, bowed solemnly, and said: "With 
the compliments of a Russian major." I wore it on my bracelet for 
a few days, but every time it caught my eye I wondered to whom 
it had belonged. I finally took it off and put it away. 

We returned to Helsinki to learn that the attack on the Isthmus 
was increasing in fury. On the ten-mile Summa section the Russians 
fired three hundred thousand shells in twenty-four hours nearly 
three times the number of shells used by the British Army during 
any one day of the Great War. The Russians had thrown nearly 
four hundred thousand men into the attack a hundred thousand 
more men than the total of the Finnish Army fighting on four fronts. 
Although the Finnish communique revealed little, by studying the 
map you could see the Russians were slowly battering their way 
through the Mannerheim zone of fortifications. But you could only 
guess at what was happening, for no journalists were allowed to 
cover the attack. 

We had been permitted to visit front-line positions before a battle 
began; to talk to Russian prisoners; to inspect captured war ma- 
terial; to be bombed as often as we liked or didn't like. We had 
been allowed to visit forest patrols and some of us had been lucky 
enough to be at headquarters when minor skirmishes had taken 


place. But no journalist was allowed at any front while a major 
battle was taking place. For news we had to rely on the laconic 
official communique which was handed out in Helsinki each evening; 
on land operations it usually averaged no more than a hundred and 
fifty words. 

The reason the Finns observed these restrictions was that success 
depended on the secrecy of their movements, the surprise of their 
outflanking attacks, and the cunning of their strategy. They couldn't 
take the chance of correspondents, with first-hand knowledge of 
their tactics, leaving the country and inadvertently giving informa- 
tion to the enemy. It was also forbidden by the censorship to 
criticize the Russian tactics for fear the enemy might profit by his 
mistakes and correct them; and, needless to say, the number of 
Finnish troop concentrations and casualties was never revealed. 

The journalists, therefore, could work only on conjecture. The 
press room of the Hotel Kamp overflowed with correspondents 
from a dozen different capitals, arguing, doubting, grumbling, ques- 
tioning. The telephone rang continuously. From one end of the 
hotel to the other you could hear journalists shouting their stories 
across Europe to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris and 
London, and even across the Atlantic to New York. Much to every- 
one's annoyance, New York was the only connection so distinct 
you could hear as well as though you were sitting in the next room. 
I usually telegraphed my stories to London, but they were often 
delayed for five or six hours, and occasionally I was forced to tele- 
phone. The line was so bad I had to repeat every word three or four 
times and I hate to think what the charges must have been. Some 
of the delay, however, was due to the fact that the Sunday Times 
telegrapher couldn't understand my American accent; once in despe- 
ration, I handed the telephone to Eddie Ward. 

"I say, is that really Mr. Ward speaking? Why, I heard you over 
the radio only an hour ago. And am I really talking to Helsinki* 
By Jove! What's it like there? Pretty cold, eh?" 

The communiqu6 was issued every evening about eight o'clock 
and there was always a mad scramble among the big agencies as to 
who got the news over the wires first. All of them put in telephone 
calls to Amsterdam, Stockholm and Copenhagen blitz calls at nine 


times the normal rate. Once the Associated Press hung on to the 
telephone for twenty-five minutes waiting for the communique to be 
issued. Five minutes after hanging up in despair a call came through 
for the United Press, and at the same moment a boy walked into the 
room with the communique. Black looks were exchanged. As a matter 
of fact, all calls that came through seemed to be for the United Press, 
and I learned later this was due to a very handsome arrangement with 
the Hotel Kamp telephone operator. 

The daily routine was constantly interrupted by the air-raid 
sirens. Although Helsinki was bombed only twice during the war 
and not badly at that when the warnings sounded everything 
ceased automatically. Unlike Spain, everyone was forced to take 
cover. Customers were cleared from shops and restaurants, people 
evicted from their offices and pedestrians shooed from the streets. 
The city became so quiet you could almost hear a pin drop. 

As the sirens sounded five or six times a day the boredom was 
immense. The policemen on the street corners occasionally tried 
to break the monotony by starting snowball fights. Guests in the 
Kamp dining-room shook their heads angrily, picked up their plates, 
and carried them across the street to the shelters in the park. You 
heard the telephone operators cutting off the calls with the outside 
world in voices of irritation: "Sorry, Copenhagen, we're having 
another warning." 

Journalists had special permission to stay above ground, but even 
so it was impossible to go on working. Besides the operators knock- 
ing off, the Finnish press officers surged downstairs and even the 
censors stopped censoring. The censors, by the way, were mysterious 
people who lived behind barred doors. No one ever saw them. 
A boy took your copy to them and when it came back red pencilled 
you might as well complain to God for all the good it did. We 
used to watch the people filing into the shelter and try to guess 
which were the censors. There was one very old gentleman who 
always carried a black satchel. We were sure he was one of them 
and took great pains to smile at him until we discovered he was 
the local veterinary. 

Owing to the inconveniences of the alarms, many foreign diplo- 
mats and attaches moved out to Grankulla, a town about fifteen 


miles from Helsinki, where they could carry on their work un- 
disturbed. Here I found Frank Hayne, the assistant American Mili- 
tary Attache to Moscow with whom I had made the trip through 
the Ukraine the year before. He had been transferred to Finland 
for the war and greeted me jovially. "I thought you'd turn up 
sooner or later. I saw your friend Martha Gellhorn a few weeks 
ago and we were wondering where you were." 

Martha had come to Finland in December to write an article 
for Collier's and had left a few days after the war broke out. Frank 
had never met her before, but on the night that the Russians pre- 
sented the Finns with an ultimatum threatening to bomb Helsinki 
off the map unless their demands were accepted, he saw a beautiful, 
demure-looking blonde sitting in the corner of the Kamp restaurant. 
He thought she was an American and much in need of protection. 
He went up, introduced himself, told her about the ultimatum and 
asked her if she wanted to be evacuated. 

"Christ, yes." 

Frank, somewhat taken aback, told her to go upstairs and get 
her things. "And five minutes later," he said, "she came downstairs 
with a pair of pyjamas and a bottle of whisky. I knew at once that 
girl had been evacuated before." 

Frank's activities were even more curtailed than those of the 
journalists. The Finnish authorities were unwilling to allow the Ger- 
man and Italian military attaches at the front, and being unable 
to discriminate against them separately made it a set rule that no 
attaches could visit the front. Frank pored over the maps and studied 
the positions on the Mannerheim Line, but with only scanty in- 
formation it was difficult for him to determine the true state of 
affairs. One day, Frank's Finnish chauffeur received a letter from 
his brother, who was an officer on the Isthmus. Frank had the letter 
translated into English, and one day when Ed Beattie and I had 
lunch with him, showed it to us. This was the letter: 


February 10, 1940. 6.35 am. 
Dear Brother, 

Now I know what an artillery barrage is like. Friend "Klim" Voro- 
shilov certainly has done his best to appease the "father of nations" and to 


slake his thirst for blood. He has tried and tried again and is continuing 
to try to break our resistance, but with bloody heads the Russians have 
been thrown back time and time again. 

Thousands of them lie bleeding in silent, immobile shapes on these 
sparkling February snowfields. They share the fate of the other thou- 
sands who in former times have invited the carrion birds and wolves of 
our forests to a feast. 

If there had not been that frightful, tearing artillery fire with its rend- 
ing explosions, one would almost have felt pity for the grey Russian 
masses who in their long overcoats waded up to their thighs in soft snow 
against the death-spitting mouths of our machine guns. Obediently and 
silently, they came, trying to make use of armoured shields, but in vain. 
Everything was futile. Murderous fire swept the field time after time 
leaving only twisting heaps of bodies, which soon became immobile. 

The tanks advancing ahead of the infantry were destroyed by our 
anti-tank weapons and by skilfully thrown bundles of hand grenades tied 
together. One would have felt sorry for these grey hordes marching to 
the slaughter, but the incessant artillery fire aroused merciless hate in 
us who were subjected to it. 

I am not ashamed to confess that artillery fire to me, as well as to 
most of the others, is simply revolting. I have not yet suffered from 
"artillery sickness," although I feel like pressing my hands against my 
ears and crying out in pain. The explosion of six-inch shells on an aver- 
age of every fourth second during nine consecutive hours, the incessant 
detonations, screaming splinters and blinding bursts of flame create in our 
bodies unspeakable terror, which can be overcome only by exercising 
one's entire psychic courage. It is killing to try to be an example to one's 
men; to joke, suck calmly on one's pipe, feeling at the same time that 
every nerve is taut as a violin string. 

To know that if one should for one second give up one's self-control 
the hands would begin to shake, the head to nod and the eyes to flinch, 
which has happened to several of my men. It is terrible to try to make 
such a man carry on his duty by encouragement and threats, but so far 
I have succeeded and every time prompt action has been required the 
men have been ready. 

If the Russians had been subjected to a fraction of the drum-fire 
that has been poured over us in the last twenty-four hours, the entire 
seventh army of the U.S.S.R. would have been in wild, panicky flight 
towards their steppes. The superiority of material and masses is so over- 
whelming that it is inconceivable how we can withstand it, but we do. 


Up to now I have been afraid that we either stand or fall, but now 
there is no longer an alternative we will stand. The whole battalion 
has only one man dead (he died in a field hospital) and we have had 
on the average one wounded man every second day. Usually the wounds 
have not been dangerous. I have not lost any of my men, not even as 
wounded, although our quarters are far from being safe. 

A couple of men have gone off their heads, and a couple of others are 
on the way, but it is because of our heavy guard and patrol duty and 
die consequent lack of sleep, not because of anxiety. We are tired, and 
we need besides pursuit planes, guns and anti-tank instruments, men, 
plenty of men who would at least do manual labour and stand guard 
duty so that we could get some rest once in a while. I know that we 
are going to be replaced soon and taken to the rear to rest, and then I 
hope to get a few days leave. But at the same time my mind is burdened 
with anxiety for those who remain here. Not because of any fear of 
defeat, but because, while the Russians change their men four times, we 
can change ours but once, and we always have fresh forces against us. 
My dear brother, what is Sweden doing for us? And will England and 
America help? Write soon and tell me. I am starved for news. 



Chapter V 



upon a Russian soldier who was lost and had been wandering about 
the ice for hours. He was a miserable spectacle, half-frozen, with a 
shaggy beard and clothes in rags. When he saw the Finns, his arms 
shot into the air in surrender. "Don't shoot! I am a Russian capitalist." 

I never discovered whether or not this story was true; it was pub- 
lished in all the Finnish papers and provided people with one of the 
few laughs they had those last grim days. At the beginning of March 
the Finnish communique announced that the Russians were fighting 
on the outskirts of Viipuri which meant they had broken through 
the Mannerheim defences. The Finnish press staff came in looking 
white and strained. Miss Helsinkius, the girl who usually arranged our 
trips, was in tears. What the Finnish losses were none of us knew. 
Whether or not the Finns could continue the war once Viipuri fell 
was, therefore, a matter of speculation. 

It was an extraordinary situation. On all the other fronts the Rus- 
sian advances had been halted by some of the most spectacular fight- 
ing in history; on the Waistline front, Russian attempts to drive 
through to the Gulf of Bothnia, cutting Finland in two, had met with 
smashing defeats and a loss of nearly 85,000 lives; on the Arctic front 
the Russian sweep down the Great Arctic Highway to the centre of 
Finland was stopped after a penetration of only seventy miles; and 
on the front north of Lake Ladoga the Russian thrust designed to 
out-flank the Mannerheim Line had been broken. 

But on the Isthmus the story was a different one. Although the Finns 
had succeeded in out-manoeuvring and out-fighting the Russians on 
every occasion where strategy and tactics had come into play, on the 



Isthmus front the only sector in Finland where actual trench war- 
fare was taking place only two things counted: men and guns. 
Wave after wave of Russians had fallen before the Finnish fire, but 
there were always more to take their place. The Finns, with a total 
army of only three hundred thousand no more than half of which 
could be used on the Isthmvis had not been able to risk their men in 
large-scale counter attacks; and the Russians, through tremendous 
superiority, had succeeded in smashing their way forward. 

But apart from the army chiefs, the politicians, and a handful of 
people in the press bureau, the majority of Finns had little conception 
of the true situation. The Finnish papers were filled with the victories 
in the north and the official communiques on the Isthmus battle were 
so brief it was impossible to draw conclusions from them. The Finns 
knew they could not hold out indefinitely against overwhelming odds, 
but most of them clung to a deep and stubborn faith that some unfore- 
seen event would save them from final destruction. Morale was high 
and fierce and on all sides you heard the dictum: "The Russians will 
only conquer when every Finn is dead." 

Much of this passionate determination was due to inbred contempt 
for Russians. The proud and capable Finns regarded them as an un- 
civilized horde. One night I rode around Helsinki in a sleigh driven by 
a huge Finn with a drooping moustache. He had a large medal pinned 
on his coat which he had won against the Russians in 1918. He took 
me past the old Greek orthodox church with its onion domes glitter- 
ing in the moonlight like diamonds; then through the bombarded sec- 
tion, where the charred remains of houses lying beneath a sheet of ice 
presented a gruesome contrast. The windows of the abandoned Rus- 
sian Legation had been shattered by a bomb and the white curtains 
blew out into the night air beckoning like hundreds of ghostly arms. 
"What animal/' asked the driver, "most resembles a human being?" 
The answer was so obvious he did not give me a chance to reply. "The 
Russian," he roared, and went into a fit of laughter that echoed all the 
way down the street. 

With this common sentiment in mind the Finns were determined to 
fight to the end; when the following paragraph was published, with- 
out comment, on March 8th, the public dismissed it with a laugh: 

" According to information in possession of the Finnish Govern- 


ment, the Soviet Union is believed to have planned the presentation of 
demands to Finland of a more far-reaching character than those pre- 
sented last Autumn. Details, however, of these demands are so far 

A few people were puzzled, then drew the optimistic conclusion 
that the Russians' enormous losses were beginning to tell; that they 
were trying to open conversations in an effort to make a peace that 
would save their face. 

But in the press room the tune was a different one. The telephone 
rang continuously as queries poured in from all over Europe. "Is it 
true the Finns have lost a third of their army? Have peace negotia- 
tions started? What terms are they discussing? Can you verify whether 
Sweden is acting as mediator?" 

We couldn't verify anything. Bottled up as we were in Helsinki, 
we were at a loss to know what was happening ourselves. Every 
journalist had a theory of his own. Some claimed the capture of 
Viipuri was not of strategic importance and the Russians still had a 
long way to go; others that the Finns were beaten; still others that 
they would fight to the bitter end. Ed Beattie was pessimistic. He had 
a long and sorry list of wars behind him: Abyssinia, China and Poland. 
"The Finns were doing all right until I got here," he remarked gloom- 
ily. "Now the jig's up." 

There was so little information in Helsinki I decided to go to Stock- 
holm to see if I could get a story there. Eddie Ward was also leaving, 
so we travelled to Vaasa together by train, and then flew across the 
Gulf. Negotiations or no negotiations, the Russian bombers were as 
active as ever. The journey took nearly thirty-six hours; again those 
burning towns; those interminable waits; those short blasts by the 
engine whistle that sent everyone stumbling through the snow to take 
cover in the woods. 

There was a Frenchman on the train, a rather timid creature, who 
mislaid his tickets, lost his baggage and asked the porter a dozen times 
in a harassed and nervous voice when we were due to arrive. He 
seemed so hopelessly out of his depth that we were sorry for him. It 
was only when we climbed aboard the aeroplane at Vaasa that we 
learned he was Colonel de la Roque, the dynamic French Croix de 
Feu (Fascist) leader. 


We arrived in Stockholm on March i ith. On the same day the 
Finns issued a communiqu6 admitting that peace discussions were 
being held in Moscow and that Sweden was acting as mediator. That 
was all. There were no details, and the lobby of the Grand Hotel was 
filled with journalists trying to get a "line" on the conversations. That 
night Gordon Young of Renter's invited Eddie and me to dine with 
himself and Mr. Erkko, the Finnish Minister to Sweden. Erkko was 
non-committal, but genial; he gave us champagne and confided noth- 
ing. We told him we might return to Helsinki in a day or so, and, 
as it was impossible to secure seats on the plane without reserving 
them several days in advance, he offered to get them for us at an hour's 

The following day there were more peace rumours. I ran into a 
Danish journalist I don't know his name who told me he was posi- 
tive an agreement had been reached in Moscow, but was unable to 
get official confirmation of it. He said that Sweden, intimidated by 
Germany, had refused to allow the transit of troops from England 
and France, and had forced the Finns to throw their hand in. Eddie 
and I had decided to return to Helsinki that night and rang up Mr. 
Erkko to arrange for the aeroplane seats. Not expecting a reply, but 
just a parting shot, Eddie said to him: "Is it true that an agreement 
has been reached in Moscow?" To our astonishment, Erkko replied 
that it was. (Why he admitted it to Eddie, I never discovered, for he 
spent the rest of the evening emphatically denying it.) 

This gave Eddie a world- wide scoop. He sent a telegram to London 
which was read over the B.B.C. on the six-o'clock news the first 
semi-official report that the Finnish-Russian War had come to an 
end. We arrived at the Stockholm aerodrome about seven o'clock 
an hour later and heard the people in the waiting-room discussing it. 
One of the passengers, a Finnish colonel, commented on it angrily. 
He turned to Eddie and said: "Did you hear the report the B.B.C. is 
putting out. That fellow Ward Price, I think his name is must be 
crazy. Peace! We'll make peace when the Russians withdraw every 
last soldier from Finland. And not before!" Eddie agreed and quickly 
moved away. 

When we took off from the aerodrome the lights of Stockholm 
sparkled like diamonds against the snow and we wondered what price 


Sweden had paid to keep them blazing. It was a sad trip. Eddie and 
I were apparently the only passengers who knew what we were re- 
turning to, and somehow it seemed to make it worse. I looked at the 
faces around me, strong, confident faces, and dared not think what 
the following day would bring. The pilot was the same man who had 
flown me to Turku two months before. He took the usual precautions 
of wiring ahead to find if the way was clear, of circling the aero- 
drome and dropping his flares. In fact, everything was the same ex- 
cept that the trip was slightly more dangerous, for six or seven seats 
had been ripped out of the plane and the floor packed with boxes 
marked: "Explosives Second Class." 

We arrived at Turku about midnight and drove to Helsinki the 
following morning in a bus. Although it was March nth, the day 
the peace terms were announced, people were still unaware of what 
was in store for them. The Turku morning paper carried headlines of 
the number of Russian planes shot down the previous day. The only 
item referring to the negotiations was a small box in the corner of 
the front page announcing that foreign radio stations were reporting 
a solution had been reached in Moscow. And this was encircled by a 
large question mark. 

It didn't seem to attract much attention. The bus was packed with 
farm girls and road workers with white capes over their clothes, who 
read the papers casually; they appeared to find nothing unusual in 
them. We stopped at one of the villages for coffee and the driver told 
us if the air-raid alarm sounded to climb in the bus as fast as possible 
so that we could get under way once more before the police stopped 
us and forced us into a shelter. 

We drove up in front of the Hotel Kamp at eleven o'clock, just as 
the radio was blaring out the announcement that peace had been made. 
But it was not until an hour later when the Foreign Minister, Mr. 
Tanner, spoke, that the people of Finland realized they had been 

The shock was staggering. None of them imagined they were 
even approaching capitulation; and many actually thought it was the 
Russians who had been forced to come to terms. The people on the 
streets seemed completely dazed. The Finnish women in the press 
room broke down and wept and the men turned their faces away. 


None of the journalists knew what to do. Commiseration seemed hope- 
lessly inadequate. I was so miserable I went downstairs and sat in a 
corner of the half-empty restaurant. A group of officers came in and 
took the table next to me. They had the latest edition of the morning 
paper in which the peace terms were published. They read it silently, 
then one of them crumpled it up angrily and threw it on the floor. 
No one spoke. They just sat there staring into space. I went out and 
walked down the street. The flags of Finland were flying at half-mast. 
That same afternoon workmen began replacing the bulbs in the 
street lamps and ripping down the wooden protections from the shop 
windows. Otherwise, there was little change in Helsinki. You expect 
a national crisis to mark itself on the face of a city, but somehow it 
never does. War or peace, peace or war, life manages to drag on in a 
more or less routine fashion. People filled the shops, the restaurants, 
the cinemas, as they always did. The only real contrast was in the 
Press room. A few days previously it was a scene of wild confusion; 
now it was almost deserted. The slate which used to announce the 
time the communique would be released was wiped clean, but tacked 
above it was a slip of paper: 

No one bothered to take it down. 

Twenty-four hours later, with the flags still flying at half-mast, 
miles of country roads resounded to the rumble of lorries and the 
jingle of sleighs as the evacuation of four hundred thousand people 

The port town of Hango, about eighty miles from Helsinki, was 
the first territory to fall beneath the sickle and hammer. I drove there 
with Frank Hayne and Eddie Ward. The streets were thronged with 
a medley of firemen, fanners, gunners, shop-keepers and policemen, 
who had volunteered to help with the evacuation; everywhere there 
were army trucks and sledges, groaning under furniture and house- 
hold goods. 

We spent several hours wandering about in a temperature of fifteen 
degrees below zero. The spectacle was a grim one, for Hango had 


been badly bombed and we passed block after block, with only gaping 
caverns to mark the places where houses had stood. When I had last 
visited Hango, two months before, ten buildings along the main street, 
hit by incendiary bombs, were burning. To-day there were no fires 
or air-raid alarms; only the wind sweeping desolately through houses 
with no window-panes; only shops with caved-in roofs and charred 
ruins thickly buried under layers of ice and snow. 

In the midst of these grim ruins the evacuation was going on. From 
one house with a bomb crater only ten feet away and a front blackened 
by blast, two soldiers were carrying tables and chairs piled high on 
their backs; from another three small children were bringing kitchen 
utensils and packing them carefully onto a small sled; from a third, an 
old man was carrying a mattress stacked with lamps and crockery. 
The sidewalks in front of the houses were covered with dressers, 
sewing-machines, bicycles, pictures, and stoves waiting to be put on 
the lorries. 

We talked to many of the people and found that grief had already 
given way to bitter resentment. Why had Finland made peace? Ac- 
cording to General Mannerheim the Finns had lost only fifteen thou- 
sand dead, and "after sixteen weeks of bloody battle with no rest by 
day or by night our Army still stands unconquered." 

What had happened? Why had Finland not continued the fight? 
In his last Order of the Day, General Mannerheim had said: 

We were not prepared for war with a Great Power. While our brave 
soldiers were defending our frontiers we had, by insuperable efforts, 
to procure what we lacked. We had to construct lines of defence where 
there were none. We had to try to obtain help, which failed to come. 
We had to find arms and equipment at a time when all nations were 
feverishly arming against the storm which sweeps over the world. Your 
heroic deeds have aroused the admiration of the world, but after three 
and a half months of war we are still almost alone. We have not obtained 
more foreign help than two reinforced battalions equipped with artillery 
and aircraft for our fronts, where our own men, fighting day and night 
without the possibility of being relieved, have had to meet the attacks 
of ever fresh enemy forces, straining their physical and moral powers 
beyond all limits. . . . Unfortunately, the valuable promises of assistance 
which the Western Powers had given us, could not be realized when our 


neighbours (Sweden and Norway) concerned for their own security, 
refused the right of transit for troops. (Italics, my own.) 

There it was the fine hand of Germany. But why, people asked, 
had Finland plunged into a hopeless war to begin with if only to 
capitulate, still unbeaten, to even more drastic terms than had been 
submitted in the first place? Not only in Hango, but from the Finns 
in Helsinki, you heard many bitter remarks. "Our politicians have 
betrayed us. There is no life this way. Far better to have fought to 
the end . . ." 

The people who were being evacuated felt it even more strongly. 
Eddie and I talked to a soldier wheeling a bicycle through the snow, 
and Frank's Finnish-American chauffeur translated his remarks. He 
told us he was a garage mechanic who had lived all his life in Hango. 
He said when he heard of the peace he refused to believe it. Even now 
it was a bad dream. "If it was necessary to make concessions in other 
directions, very well. But the Russians should have been made to 
fight for Hango every inch of the way." 

Near the police station we talked to a woman and daughter who 
ran a small pension. They had just registered their names for a lorry to 
evacuate their belongings. 

"When it comes I don't know where we'll go. We've got no rela- 
tives and no other prospects of making a living." 

The mother shook her head sadly. "Perhaps it's wrong to say it, 
but it would almost make me happy to hear the sirens again." 

But we found that what people seemed to resent the most was 
turning over their houses to Russians, who, they feared, would take 
little care of them. One of three nurses standing at the street corner, 
told us it wouldn't be so bad if any other nation were occupying 
Hango, but try as she would, it was impossible to think of the Russians 
as human beings. The second one agreed. "At least, they won't find 
anything in my house but four walls and a roof. I've even taken the 
brass water-taps away." 

"Yes," said the third. "But what a pity it is we have to leave our 
water tower for them." She pointed to the old brick tower, an ancient 
landmark in the middle of the town. 

"Oh, don't worry about that. After a day or so they're sure to have 
it out of commission." 


An old man, a factory worker, joined the group just before we 
left. "We've had a lot of bombs fall on Hango since November 
thirtieth," he said, "but the worst bomb of all has been this peace." 

Everyone nodded. 

Richard Busvine of the Chicago Times, Eddie and I left Helsinki 
a few days later. Once again we had the strange experience of passing 
from one war atmosphere to another. We took a plane to Stockholm, 
a train to Malmo, another plane to London. At Malmo, the aerodrome 
waitihg-room was overflowing with people. Suddenly a man shouted 
in a loud voice: "Please form two lines. Berlin passengers to the left. 
London passengers to the right." Everyone surged apart and stood 
glaring angrily at each other. Then they filed through the door and 
climbed aboard their respective planes. The engines roared. First one 
disappeared into the grey haze, then the other. 

"Who said 'never the twain shall meet'?" asked Richard. 

"Bit awkward, that," said Eddie. "I wish those people would stay 
in their own b country." 

"You and a hundred million others," said Richard sourly. 

Part Eight 



Chapter I 


and that first week in April. The sun streamed down on the first 
spring flowers and the air was warm and sweet. I walked through 
St. James's Park thinking how good it was to see green grass again. 
I drank in the scene around me: the fat, pink-cheeked children 
with their nannies: the two old ladies sitting on a bench with high 
button boots and top-heavy hats like a George Belcher drawing; 
the man in the pin-striped suit, grey hat, spats and tightly-rolled 
umbrella striding briskly in the direction of Whitehall. Ahead of 
me two very old gentlemen were in earnest conversation. As I 
passed them I heard one remonstrating indignantly about the number 
of old houses being torn down to make way for modern ones. 

I smiled. With the world on the threshold of a titanic struggle, 
with hundreds of thousands of houses soon to crash to the ground, 
these gentle protests seemed almost comical. It was the sort of con- 
versation you expected to hear from two very old gentlemen, 
strolling through St. James's Park. When I first came to London 
that curious detachment known as "English insularity" used to be- 
wilder and alarm me. Now I found something strangely comforting 
in the placid, unruffled atmosphere. You felt that no matter what 
happened, London would always stand. Everything about it was 
so slow, methodical and deliberate. The routine of life seemed as 
determined as the regulated moves of nature. Even the ponderous 
houses and the heavy buses, had an air of stability about them. I 
remembered Martha's remark: "If the world ever comes to an end 
and if there is only one person left, it's bound to be an English- 
man." I had a feeling she was right. 



Underneath this air of serenity, everyone knew the great test 
was coming soon. But most people were determined not to let it 
worry them till it happened; shops and restaurants were crowded 
and the debutantes still sat up all night at the Nut House. 

Freda had closed her house and I went to live with Anne O'Neill 
at Montagu Square. As Anne's husband, Shane, was serving with 
a regiment in the north of Ireland and her two children were in 
the country, half the house was shut up; but the atmosphere was 
far from gloomy. Gay and pretty, Anne refused to allow the prob- 
lems of war-time housekeeping to disturb her, and every afternoon 
dozens of people drifted in for tea. One day her Irish maid, Lily, 
who had been with her for a good many years, grumbled about the 
irregularity of the household, complaining that none of the servants 
was doing any work. "The trouble is, they're taking advantage of 
the situation. They all know how young and foolish your Lady- 
ship is." 

Young but far from foolish, Anne went on her way unperturbed, 
and 35 Montagu Square ran as joyfully and haphazardly as ever. 
Finland seemed a long way off. I stayed in bed till noon and spent 
the rest of the day shopping. It was a peaceful life, that last week 
of the "bore" war. Even the newspaper headlines were unalarming: 
April ist, Allies Tighten Blockade; April 2nd, Toll of War Strain 
on German Workers; April 3rd, Nazis Accuse Norway Neutrality 
Violation; April 4th, Reynaud says: No "Phoney" Peace; April 5th, 
Chamberlain says: Hitler Misses the Bus; April 6th, Halifax Sends 
Notes to Norway and Sweden "Don't be Afraid of Nazi Bullies"; 
April yth, British Envoys Plan Tighten Trade Grip Germany. 

During the week I went over to collect some books which I had 
left with Mrs. Sullivan and was surprised to find her apprehensive. 
Impending disaster usually left her unperturbed. Her fat face beamed 
when she saw me. 

"My goodness, you must have been cold in Finland. It made me 
shiver to read about it. When Sullivan came home on leave I said 
to him: 'Poor Miss Cowles, the way she used to shiver in this flat 
without any central heating. I don't expect we'll ever see her again. 
That's the trouble with Americans,' I said, 'living in those over- 
heated houses of theirs and never eating anything so they're all 
skin and bones.' Old Sullivan said, 'Now, if it 'ad been me I wouldn't 


'ave felt the cold at all.' Cheeky, isn't he? I say, miss, what sort of 
people are the Finns? What colour are they?" 

Her face fell when I told her they were just ordinary people like 

"I had an idea they were red like Eskimos. Well, it's a good thing 
they did away with all those Russians. There was a Russian woman 
living in the neighbourhood I don't know what's happened to her 
now but I never took to her much. She had those foreign ways. 
You know, never taking a bath. She cheated me out of three bob 
once. After that I always thought I'd like Russians better dead than 

Mrs. Sullivan went upstairs to collect the books. She brought 
them down in a cardboard box. 

"And didn't my old man enjoy reading them," she said. "He 
particularly liked that book of Mr. Lloyd George's World Crisis, 
isn't it? Do you remember those apples, miss? Pity you can't go 
down and call on him again. Maybe, he'd give us some more. But, 
Henry, over at the pub, says they'd better get him back in the 
Government quick or something awful will happen. He said he 
didn't like that remark of Mr. Chamberlain's yesterday Itler's 
missed the bus. He says buses run every ten minutes, never forget 

No one forgot it for long. Four days later when Hitler struck, 
I thought of Mrs. Sullivan's words. That night I wrote in my war 
diary for the first and only time. A day or so after the declaration 
of war, Anne and I had walked down to Smythson's in Bond Street 
and bought ourselves large leather note-books with gilt-edged pages, 
determined to keep a day-by-day record. Except for April 9th, 
mine is still virginal. This is what it says: 

To-day the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway. I suppose I 
ought to be used to these awful moments by now, but a chill still goes 
up my spine. At ten o'clock Esmond Harmsworth rang Anne up with 
the news Oslo had been bombed; at 1 1 o'clock Seymour sent us a basket 
of plovers' eggs; at 12 o'clock Poppy Thursby and Bridget Parsons 
dropped in and ate them. 

We turned on the radio and heard a report that the Germans had 
already made a good many landings at various points along die Norwe- 


gian coast. Poppy was belligerent. 'What's happened to our Navy, that's 
what I want to know? Anne, can't you telephone Esmond and find out?" 

"Darling, you know how gloomy he is. He'll tell me it's at the bottom 
of the ocean." 

"But if we haven't got a Navy," insisted Poppy, "what have we got?" 

"Mr. Chamberlain," said Bridget. 

"Do be serious," said Poppy. "You know our Army's ridiculous. Still 
drilling with broomsticks and all that. But the Navy's a different matter. 
If Hitler, with his tuppenyha'-penny boats can cruise around wherever 
he pleases, where are we?" 

"Dished!" said Anne cheerfully. 

Poppy insisted that I ring up someone and try to get some news. I 
telephoned Webb Miller, but he told me all communications with Scandi- 
navia had been severed and nothing was coming through. 

Anne and I lunched with Maureen and Oliver Stanley. I gathered 
that Norway or no Norway, an invasion of Holland was believed to be 
imminent. The Dutch Minister telephoned Maureen during lunch and 
said the country was in a state of tension and that every precaution had 
been taken; but so far no new developments. 

In the afternoon, Eddie Ward and Richard Busvine dropped in for 
cocktails. They had just come from the Swedish Consulate where they 
had tried to get visas for Sweden, but as Richard said, it was all a lot of 
wishful thinking, for how the hell d'you get to Sweden? I advised 
against. From the point of view of news it seems more sensible to wait 
for the invasion of Holland or Roumania than rushing off and getting 
yourself bottled up in Sweden for the duration or for that matter in a 
German internment camp. 

I had dinner with Tommy Thompson who spoke indignantly about 
the neutrals, always trying to have it both ways, always refusing to ally 
themselves with Great Britain until it was too late. The Government 
begged the Norwegians to immobilize some of their ports and aerodromes 
a few hours before the German attack, but they didn't do it. And to-day, 
of course, they're all in German hands. He says the Americans learned a 
long time ago: "United we stand, divided we fall." Why can't they learn 
it in Europe? Why? (Instead, they seem to look the poor old gift horse 
straight in the mouth. Before dinner I telephoned Freda who's got a 
Norwegian cook; she said her kitchen was full of moaning Norwegians, 
wringing their hands and crying: "The trouble with the Bree-tish is, 
they are always too late.") 

The head-waiter came up to our table we dined at Scott's saying 


he'd just heard that British troops had already embarked for Norway. 
I wonder if it's true. He also told us that the manager of Scott's a Dane, 
with a family in Copenhagen had broken down and cried when he 
heard of the invasion. "He's not the sort of man to cry/' said the waiter. 
"These are terrible days." Yes, I thought, and worse to come. 

Here my diary ended, but I need no notes to remind me of the 
next few weeks. The war had really started. For six months the 
Allied Powers had blockaded Germany with the object of forcing 
her to strike out against defences which they believed to be im- 

But Norway came as a surprise. The British Intelligence Service 
was aware that Germany had been practising large-scale embarkation 
manoeuvres; but the exercises had begun during the Finnish war 
and were believed to have achieved their purpose when Scandinavia 
heeded the Nazi warning and refused to allow the right of transit 
to Allied troops. 

The Government's first reaction was one of optimism. Mr. Cham- 
berlain referred to the German move as "a rash deed"; Mr. Churchill 
said: "It is as great a strategical blunder and political error as that 
which was committed by Napoleon in invading Spain." 

But this was a new kind of war. This was the first total "Fifth 
Column" war of history. Treachery presented the Germans with 
seventy per cent, of their victory; forged documents and faked 
orders forbade Norwegians to fire on German ships. Indeed, so 
cleverly organized were Norway's Quislings that many towns and 
ports fell into the enemy's hands during the first few hours. By the 
time British troops landed, their positions were already strategically 
impossible to defend. On May 2nd, Chamberlain had the sorry task 
of announcing to the House of Commons that Norway was lost 
and Great Britain's withdrawal had begun. 

The Norwegian campaign had tremendous repercussions. First, 
it made people Quisling-conscious, impressing them with the rev- 
olutionary aspect of Nazism; second, it awakened Britons to the 
fact that islands were not unconquerable; third, it displaced the 
Chamberlain Government and brought in Winston Churchill. 

Now Mr. Churchill had been right on most of the issues where 
Mr. Chamberlain had been wrong. It is curious that on the particular 


occasion that brought him into power his judgment had been as 
much at fault as anyone else's. In the House of Commons debate 
he assumed as First Lord of the Admiralty his full blame for the 
fiasco. But Mr. Lloyd George in a devastating attack on the Gov- 
ernment ("The whole world knows that we are in the worst stra- 
tegic position this country has ever been placed in") replied sharply 
to Mr. Churchill's acceptance of full responsibility, saying that he 
hoped the First Lord would "not allow himself to be converted 
into an air-raid shelter to keep the splinters from hitting his col- 

The blast blew Mr. Chamberlain out of office. The country had 
steadily been losing confidence in the Prime Minister ever since the 
fateful day of the German occupation % of Prague; now, his un- 
fortunate phrase, "Hitler's missed the bus," was on everyone's lips. 
When the Opposition called a division and the House voted, Tory 
M.P.s ignored the crack of Margesson's whip (for the first time) 
and the score board showed the figures*. 

For adjournment 281 

Against adjournment 200 

The Government majority of only 81 was too small for the Prime 
Minister to carry on. He invited the Opposition to join the Cabinet, 
but was refused. On March loth, the day Germany invaded Holland 
and Belgium, Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill became 
Prime Minister. 

I was not in London at the time. On May 2nd, the day the Gov- 
ernment announced the withdrawal from Norway, I flew to Rome. 
Just before I left I saw Mr. Churchill at Maureen Stanley's house. 
In spite of the disheartening news of the time, he was in vigorous 
spirits. When I told him I was going to Rome and asked whether 
or not he thought the Italians were coming into the war, he shook 
his head. 

"I don't know. I certainly hope not. I'm very fond of the Italian 
people. But if they do," and here his eyes twinkled, "of one thing 
I'm certain k won't be necessary to go to Pompeii to see the 




Chapter 11 



under the muzzle of the Sudeten German machine-gun on the 
Austrian-Czech frontier, nearly a year and a half before. We sat 
now at a pavement cafe at the top of the Via Veneto eating a 
strawberry ice. The sun streamed down and the wind blew gently 
through the trees and we both thought what a nice place the world 
ought to be. "But it isn't," said John emphatically. "Why the hell 
did the British muck up Norway? It's had a disastrous effect here. 
Particularly in the face of all the initial optimism that came flowing 
out of London. It's cut the ground right out from under the feet 
of the anti-German crowd here. People who were getting pretty 
sore at the Duce for tying them up with the Nazis are beginning 
to say perhaps the old boy was right after all. No Italian wants 
to be on the losing side. I don't think they're coming into the war 
right now, but Mussolini's got the bit between his teeth and any- 
thing may happen. In the last few days the temperature's gone up 
fifty degrees." 

That was May fourth, five weeks before Italy entered the war. 
You could already feel the tension. Gone was the lazy indifference 
of the previous August; now everyone poured over the news- 
papers, clung to the radio; talked, gesticulated, remonstrated, argued, 
and moaned. 

You could feel the Nazi grip tightening, Germans were every- 
where: the Embassy staff had swollen to over eighty; there were 
Nazi officials, military experts, all manner of technicians, and an 
endless flow of tourists. You saw them dancing in the hotel restau- 



rants by night, wandering about the streets, Baedekers in hand, by 
day. The Italian tourist bureau displayed large posters advertising 
cut-price trips to Germany; the newspapers carried vitriolic des- 
patches signed by the Deutsche Nachrichten Buro\ the cafes were 
well stocked with copies of the Volkischer Beobachter and the 
Berliner Tageblatt. I was surprised to find that many of the maids, 
porters and hairdressers in the leading hotels had been replaced by 
Germans. Everywhere you heard whispers that the Nazi Gestapo 
was already operating on its own. 

Superimposed on the apprehensive atmosphere was an artificial 
gaiety. It was the big season in Rome; there was a round of feverish 
entertaining that reminded me of the hectic days in London the 
summer before the war. I found to my surprise that the idle gentle- 
men and the elegant ladies of Roman society, usually dismissed as 
decadent, were standing up fiercely (if inconsequentially) to the 
pro-German current. They refused to have anything to do with 
the Germans. It was their proudest boast that not a single German 
had ever crossed the threshold of the ultra-smart Golf Club. They 
went out of their way to entertain members of the British and 
French Embassies and professed anti-Nazi views with dangerous 
frankness. Even the beautiful Princess Bismark, wife of the German 
Counsellor, was ignored. Rumour had it that the Nazis had sent 
her to Rome to thaw out some of the chilliest aristocrats and not 
to overlook Count Ciano in the rush. (As far as the latter was con- 
cerned however, the French Government had been a jump ahead 
by exporting a very pretty nineteen-year-old movie actress who was 
already monopolizing his attention.) 

I had a good many friends in Rome and each one took me aside 
and asked me anxiously if I thought America was coming into 
the war. Many of them were despairing. "We're already German 
vassals. Whatever happens, we're doomed. We're caught between 
the frying-pan and the fire." One man seriously suggested that I 
try to get an interview with Mussolini, then shoot him. "You will 
have the thanks of the entire Italian Nation," he said. "Yes," I 
agreed. "And a harp thrown in." 

In spite of the general pessimism, some of the French and British 
diplomats believed Ciano to be pro- Ally at heart and clung to the 
hope that he might prevent Mussolini from throwing in his entire 


hand with the Germans. I was always doubtful of this. I had heard 
too often from reliable sources that Ciano was the only man Mus- 
solini trusted. This never sounded to me as if there were any grave 
differences of opinion. Besides, Ciano seemed too much of a light- 
weight to maintain an independent line of his own; I felt he was 
playing a part only, and obeying instructions in maintaining friendly 
relations with the British and French diplomats so that Mussolini 
could bargain better with the Germans. However, on this particular 
occasion, I had little opportunity to judge from personal experience. 
The first day I went to the Golf Club I saw Ciano and Alfieri 
lunching together. They took one look at me, then carefully gazed 
in the opposite direction. Afterwards I asked Benedetto Capo Mazza, 
the foreign Press chief (whom I'd known in the Italian Embassy 
in Washington) what the trouble was. 

"They didn't like the last article you wrote," he said. "You said 
the Italian people weren't with the Duce and that they didn't want 
to fight." 

"Well, they don't, do they?" 

"The point is, you said it. Besides that, they think you're danger- 
ous. You're too pro- Ally." 

During the next week I must have encountered Ciano half a dozen 
times at the Golf Club, but on each occasion he went to such pain- 
ful lengths to ignore me I began to feel like Mata Hari. 

I did talk, however, with his chief assistant, Signor Anfuso, a dark, 
wiry little Foreign Office expert. But it was by mistake. I was placed 
next to him at a lunch-party. He gave me one uneasy look, then 
plunged into a violent pro-German harangue. I asked him if he'd ever 
read what Claudius, Emperor of Rome, had written about the Ger- 
mans, and he replied coldly: "The modern world has nothing to do 
with the old one. That's what the democracies can't seem to realize. 
Their feeble statesmen like to imagine that we Italians are secretly 
hostile to the Germans. I can assure you of the contrary. We have 
the same ideas, the same philosophy, the same purpose. In fact, we 
are perfect complements to one another. What we have, they lack; 
and what they have, we lack. (And how, I thought.) Make no mis- 
take about it," he continued. "The Germans are our allies. We're 
as good as in the war right now." 


I asked him what he thought Italy's position would be if Ger- 
many won, and he replied: "There's plenty of room for two great 
Powers in Europe." 

I nodded. "It's just a question of which two." 

With this he turned to his other partner and the conversation 
ended. I saw only one other Italian official during my ten days* 
stay and that was Air Marshal Balbo. He came to Rome for twenty- 
four hours to confer with Mussolini. There were a good many 
rumours that he was opposed to the Axis Alliance, which I believe 
were substantiated. I heard from a friend that he warned Mussolini 
not to judge Allied resistance solely by the Norwegian fiasco; he 
believed that England and France, with the aid of America, were 
bound to conquer in the end through a preponderance of reserves 
and war material. My friend said that although Balbo was himself 
disturbed by the Norwegian campaign, he had been greatly im- 
pressed by the House of Commons debate which had taken place the 
day before (May 8th). "You've got to hand it to them," he exclaimed. 
"When they're wrong they stand up and admit it. That's what I 
admire about the English!" 

I ran into Balbo in the lobby of the Hotel Excelsior, just as he 
was leaving to catch a plane to take him back to Africa. He was as 
lively and gusty as ever. "Why don't you come to Libya with me? 
Right now. P'raps we could squeeze in that little flight across the 
desert! Or are you still afraid of my beard? One day I'll shave it 
off, but then you wouldn't recognize me. You'd say, who's that 
funny-looking man? But p'raps you say that anyway." He roared 
with laughter at his joke. Just then several friends interrupted him 
and urged him to hurry. He asked where I was going after Rome 
and when I told him England he winked slightly and whispered: 
"Bonne chance. Bonne chance!" That was the last I saw of him. 

I spent most of my time in Rome talking with economic experts, 
and naval and military attaches, trying to assess Italy's potential 
war strength. Rumours were growing more lively each day. When 
Prince Philip of Hesse suddenly arrived in Rome, speculation reached 
a new pitch. Prince Philip was a German Prince, married to Princess 
Mafalda, a daughter of the King of Italy. He was a fanatical Nazi, 


entrusted by Hitler to act as intermediary between himself and 

I had met Prince Philip the summer before when I was staying with 
Mona Williams at Capri. He was a stolid, middle-aged German with 
an agreeable manner and a passionate devotion to Hitler. A nephew 
of the ex-Kaiser, he was the only member of the large Hesse clan 
who had embraced Nazism, and was, I gathered, regarded as the 
black sheep of the family. He had joined the Party before Hitler 
came into power and in 1933 was rewarded with the appointment 
of Governor of the Prussian Province of Hesse-Nassau. 

Every morning he used to appear at Mona's to go swimming. He 
was an amiable, simple sort of man who took great pleasure in look- 
ing through the powerful telescope on the terrace at the small boats 
moving across the harbour; summer visitors liked to row round 
the island and he often caught couples in amorous embraces which 
caused him immense amusement. 

Only once did he discuss Germany with me. When he spoke of 
Hitler his eyes lighted up and he launched into an eloquent adula- 
tion of the Fiihrer's extraordinary personality, his gaiety, his friend- 
liness, his gentleness and humour! He told me that Hitler and Mus- 
solini were undoubtedly the two greatest men the world had ever 
seen. When Mussolini went to Germany for the signing of the 
Munich Agreement, Prince Philip travelled to the frontier to meet 
him. He said the moment Hitler boarded the train the two dictators 
put their heads together, and five minutes later the entire Czech 
problem was solved. "That's what I like," commented Prince Philip 
enthusiastically. "Men who know their minds." 

He went on to add that although the dictators shared many 
dynamic qualities, temperamentally they were complete opposites. 
Whereas Hitler was sociable, Mussolini was a recluse; whereas Hit- 
ler liked entertaining at his house, Mussolini rarely received people 
except at his office; whereas Hitler trusted everyone, Mussolini 
trusted no one. 

"Of course," said Prince Philip, "neither one would do in the 
other's country. Imagine trusting anyone in Italy. You'd be out of 
office in a week!" 

Now, this anxious spring, Prince Philip was evidently once more 


on the job. I read of his arrival with interest, but since I was de- 
cidedly persona non grata, I didn't expect to see him. One day, 
however, I returned to the hotel to find a message asking me to go 
to the palace at six o'clock for cocktails. I assumed he was having 
a cocktail party, but when I arrived I found myself the only guest. 
He was waiting for me in the drive and greeted me warmly; then he 
led me into the drawing-room and mixed a cocktail. 

"I hear you spent the winter in Finland," he said. (I wondered 
why it was that Germans always seemed to know everything.) "Do 
tell me about it. I have a great admiration for the Finns." For the 
next ten minutes he plied me with questions, interrupting every now 
and then to praise Mannerheim's gallant resistance. In the middle of 
the conversation his wife, Princess Mafalda entered the room. 

"I was just talking about Finland," he explained. "I was telling 
Virginia how sorry we were in Berlin we couldn't help the Finns. 
But, naturally, our pact with Russia prevented us from interfering." 

"But, darling," said Princess Mafalda, "you told me you did in- 
terfere. You told me you persuaded the Finns to sign the peace 
treaty by promising to put things right for them later on." 

Prince Philip flushed. "Certainly not. You're completely mistaken. 
It was quite impossible for us to interfere. We had nothing at all 
to do with it." 

"But, darling, you said . . ." 

Prince Philip gave her a stern look; she lapsed into silence, and a 
few minutes later left the room. 

We sipped our cocktails and exchanged pleasantries. It seemed 
odd that I should be the only guest and I wondered curiously what 
was at the back of Prince Philip's mind. Suddenly he swung on to 
the subject of the war. His eyes shone with relish. 

"I told you last summer what a genius Hitler was. Well, now I 
think he's even more of a genius. Do you know he planned both 
the Polish and Norwegian campaigns himself? I think he's the great- 
est man that's ever lived. No other man has taken two capitals in a 
single day. Oslo and Copenhagen all within twelve hours! It must 
have been quite a surprise for the British, wasn't it?" 

I replied that it had been. Then he said: "Of course, the real 
war hasn't started yet. When it does, there will be destruction on 


an unprecedented scale. Half Europe will be destroyed. What's so 
sad is that it's quite unnecessary. It could be prevented if only Great 
Britain would see reason. Naturally, it would involve a little loss of 
prestige, but she must get rid of her old-fashioned ideas and realize 
the world is changing. I'm very fond of the English. After all, I 
have English blood in my veins my grandmother was Queen Vic- 
toria but I know how stubborn they can be. It seems frightful 
they should bring all this misery on the world. I can assure you 
Hitler is deeply distressed by it. I drove into Warsaw with him 
and when he saw the devastation his face turned white literally 
white. I shall never forget it. He turned to me, and said: 'How 
wicked of these people to have resisted us and forced us to take such 
measures.' " (Even Dr. Goebbels, I thought, couldn't have invented 
a better one.) Prince Philip continued: "I haven't much hope of 
England coming to her senses of her own accord, but, of course, 
America could force her to." 

(So this was what our cocktail party was about.) "How?" I asked, 

"Very simple. All America has to do is to tell England and 
France plainly and simply that she isn't going to give them any 
help; if she takes a firm enough stand, they will be forced to come 
to terms. You American writers should use your influence to this 
effect. It's tragic to think of all the beautiful things in Europe being 
smashed to pieces." 

"But who's done the smashing? Certainly not the Poles, the Danes, 
or the Norwegians." 

"But, don't you understand? On all these occasions England 
had forced our hand." 

"In that case, do you really think Hitler would be willing to 
make peace? I should have thought by this time hatred was too 

"Not at all. I'm sure he would. Hitler is both shrewd and prac- 
tical. In fact, he's the most practical man I've ever known. He 
would never allow pique or anger to influence his judgment." 

"The world certainly doesn't view him in that light. If anyone 
has created a picture of temperament and instability, he has." 

Prince Philip smiled. "Oh, that's only the German manner. We 


Germans like a certain amount of drama. It's characteristic of us, 
just as it's characteristic of the English to be over-reserved." 

In the months that followed I often thought of this extraordinary 
conversation. After the destruction of France, Hitler announced that 
the "war in the west" was over. I am sure he believed he could per- 
suade England to make peace: the snag was, of course, that "little 
loss of prestige." 

On the morning of May tenth the German Army launched its 
long-awaited attack on the West. I had sat up the night before until 
two in the morning, writing my article for the Sunday Times, 
which I had arranged to telephone to London the following after- 
noon. I had laboured long and hard over it. With all the varying 
currents in Rome, with all the contingencies each one dependent 
on the other, with the likelihood of an attack both in the Balkans 
and on the Western Front, it was difficult to predict the next Italian 
move. I finally began this way: 

The Spring of 1940 will undoubtedly see the German, French and 
British armies locked in a struggle so decisive that its outcome will 
affect many generations to come. What role Italy will play is still unpre- 
dictable. But judging from Italian vulnerability, there is every reason to 
believe Mussolini will not renounce his present state of belligerent neu- 
trality unless the Germans gain an important victory on the Western 
Front. Italy is not prepared to aid Germany at a costly expense; she 
cannot afford to take an active part in the war until she calculates a 
German victory is within three months of realization. 

At eight o'clock the next morning the telephone rang and John 
Whitaker said: "Tear up your article, honey. No one wants to 
read about the Wops now. Hitler's invaded Holland and Belgium." 

I arranged to meet John for dinner and decided to leave for Paris 
the following day. I got up and began to dress. While I was combing 
my hair the maid brought in my shoes. She was a fat, middle-aged 
woman and I was surprised to see she looked as though she'd been 
crying. She closed the door, gazed cautiously around the room, un- 
hooked the telephone (in case of a dictaphone) and spoke in a low 
voice. "You've heard the news?" 


Now, I couldn't speak Italian and she couldn't speak English, 
so we didn't have much conversation. But I understood what she 
meant when she said: " terrible. II povero Eelgio. Terrible. Odio i 
Tedeschi. & sempre lo stesso. & terrible" Her poor fat face was 
twisted with distress. 

She was not the only one. All over Rome that morning you saw 
people reading their papers unhappily. For months everyone had 
prepared for this, yet it still came as a shock. Somehow it seemed 
to bring back the terrible days of 1914 with a fresh violence and 
the awfulness of the repetition made it even worse. Many Italians 
remembered the last time only too well and were stirred with a 
deep pang of sympathy for their former allies. When I went into 
a shop on the Piazza di Spagna to cancel an order I'd given, tears 
came into the eyes of the proprietress. "If you go to Paris, Made- 
moiselle, tell the French people all of us are not their enemies." And 
later on when I went to have some passport pictures taken the 
photographer shook his head in disgust: "Those Germans . . ." 

I spent most of the afternoon trying to get necessary visas. It was 
a lovely day and I rode over to the French Consulate in a carriage. 
As we wound our way in and out of the twisting streets, through 
the Campo di Fiori blazing with spring flowers, it was hard to realize 
that at that very moment guns were shuddering and blood was flow- 
ing. But when I reached the Consulate it came closer. The rooms 
were crowded with people looking tired and anxious, all trying 
to get back to France. How often, I thought, have I seen those 
strained faces; soon no one in Europe will know how to smile. 

That night John and I dined with "Taffy" Rodd, the assistant 
British Naval Attache, and George Labouchere the Second Secretary 
of the British Embassy, in the latter's flat off the Via Nomentana, 
overlooking the Alban Hills. We hadn't had any news all afternoon 
and about nine o'clock turned on the radio and tried to get London. 
Every language seemed to flow into the room except English; then 
suddenly we heard a voice saying: "Hitler has chosen a moment 
when, perhaps, it seemed to him that this country was entangled in 
the throes of a political crisis. He has counted on our internal differ- 
ences to help him. He has miscalculated the mind of this people." 

It was Mr. Chamberlain. He went on to say that after the parlia- 


mentaiy debate of May seventh and eighth (the debate on Norway), 
he had no doubt 

that some new and drastic action must be taken if confidence was to be 
restored to the House of Commons, and the war carried on with the 
vigour and energy essential to victory. It was apparent that the essential 
unity could be secured under another Prime Minister. In those circum- 
stances, my duty was plain. I sought an audience with the King this 
evening and tendered my resignation. 

The King has now entrusted to my friend and colleague [here there 
was a slight pause and John whispered: "Lord Halifax?"] my friend 
and colleague, Mr. Winston Churchill, the task of forming a new 
Administration . . . 

We whooped with delight. John cried: "Oh, boy, oh, boy, now 
everyone will start going places!" 

We were so delighted after dinner we decided to celebrate. 
"Taffy" Rodd, who knew Italy well, took us to a cafe in a fascinating 
little piazza in an out-of-the-way part of Rome. There was an ac- 
cordion player and a violinist who gave us all our favourite tunes; 
we drank a jug of wine and sang to our heart's content. 

We didn't feel like going to bed, so when we got back into the 
car we drove up to the Janiculum, the highest summit in the capital. 
It was a wonderful night. There were so many stars the sky looked 
like a great and splendid chandelier. To the west we could see the 
dark outline of the Vatican; to the east, a blaze of lights flashing from 
the Seven Hills of Rome. Heaven and earth seemed one and the 
same; the stars were lights and the lights were stars, all glistening 
through a single sweep of darkness. 

About midnight we started home. The streets were deserted and 
the noise of the car penetrated through the stillness. We turned a 
bend and saw a group of men standing on the corner. A few blocks 
farther on there was another group. Then still another. 

"I wonder what's up," said "Taffy." 

John was leaning out of the window. "They look like the squadristi 
the old-time street fighters." 

"P'raps there's going to be a coup <T6tat" I said hopefully. 
"P'raps we're seeing a second march on Rome." 


We swung into the Piazza Bar Bering and drove up the Via Veneto^ 
to my hotel. We saw hundreds of large white posters pasted on the 
buildings. When we reached my hotel the Regina we found two 
on either side of the door. George translated the headings: "Eng- 
land Has Missed the Bus!" Then followed a vitriolic attack, branding 
the British as everything from cowards to degenerates. 

We read them indignantly: "So that's what the squadristi have 
been up to," said John. 

George reached up and felt one. "Yes. They're still wet." 

Just then the air was broken by wild cries: "Inglesi! Inglesir 
The gang of Fascist street fighters who had put up the posters were 
lying in wait around the corner. Thinking, evidently, we were try- 
ing to tear them down, they swept towards us, shaking their fists 
and shouting. There must have been fifty of them. 

They fell on George, "Taffy" and John, lashing out in every direc- 
tion. The noise was appalling. The proprietor of the hotel came out 
on the pavement in his pyjamas and tried to restore order, but was 
immediately knocked down. 

I stood near the door, not knowing what to do. George, his face 
bleeding, was hurled up against me, and the proprietor, who by this 
time had picked himself up, managed to pull both of us inside and 
bolt the doors. 

"Whatever you do, don't open the door," he said excitedly. "I 
will telephone the police." 

I promptly disobeyed him. The commotion outside seemed to be 
growing louder, and I pictured John and "Taffy" lying in a bloody 
pool on the pavement. I knew if I opened the door everyone would 
come pouring in, but I thought it might at least serve as a diversion. 
Being in no danger myself, as it was unlikely they would strike a 
woman, I told George to keep out of sight, walked up to the door 
and unscrewed the heavy bolts. I stepped back a good distance and 
a second later the mob surged in. At the same moment, the manager 
came running out of his office crying in a frenzy: "What have you 
done?" He was promptly knocked down for the second time. 

"Taffy" and John were swept in with the crowd; aside from a few 
cuts and bruises, they seemed to have held their own. But it was 
evidently George's blood the mob was after, for the air was filled 


with shouts for the "aljro Inglese" To my despair, George peered 
around the corner. 

"There he is!" 

It was an awful moment. "Taffy" and George were reluctant to 
strike out at the gang for fear of creating an "international incident" 
at so critical a time, and John had no wish to lose his job as permanent 
Rome correspondent of the Chicago Daily News. It seemed up to me. 
But, unable to speak Italian, there was little I could do. I decided to 
try being pathetic. 

''Messieurs fil vous plcAt. II est mon man. Mon mm? I repeated, 
hoping the Italians had a word for "husband" that began with an "m." 

I took out a handkerchief and the leader of the group wavered. He 
replied in a stream of Italian I couldn't understand. 

"Mon marl . . " 

He turned and muttered something to his followers, who all began 
talking at once. Suddenly, a newcomer pushed his way through the 
crowd. He was a dark, wiry little Italian in a black suit, with riding- 
boots and a whip. He spoke in an emphatic voice, pointing to George 
and shaking his whip. The leader looked uncertain and said something 
in a tone that sounded as though he were protesting. 

"Tell her to get out then," snarled the newcomer. The others took 
up the cry and began shaking their fists. The leader looked uneasy. 

"S'il vous plait, monsieur ..." I implored. "Mon mari . . " 

The man with the whip was getting indignant. "Drag him out on 
the street then." Some of the group shouted, "Si, si" and began press- 
ing forward; the others including the leader shouted, "No, no" and 
pushed them back. Before we knew what was happening the crowd 
had split into two groups and a minute later everyone was striking out 
wildly at each other. It was exactly like a Mack Sennet comedy; a 
crazy melange of arms and legs, with bodies reeling up against the 
porter's desk and chairs and tables crashing to the floor, 

"This is our chance," said John. "Come on. Let's beat it." 

The four of us made a dash for the lift, pressed the button and shot 
up to the fifth floor. The pandemonium echoed from one end of the 
hotel to the other, but gradually the commotion died away, which 
seemed to indicate that our side had won. The manager came upstairs 
with a large patch on his forehead and said they had left the hotel. 


George telephoned Sir Noel Charles, the British Minister, to report 
the incident and half an hour later the latter arrived at the hotel to 
drive them home in his car. 

I went to bed and didn't hear the end of the story until the next 
morning. When John and the three Englishmen went out in the street, 
the mob, who had been waiting for them around the corner, came 
running forward once again and encircled them. They heckled them 
for over an hour, jostling and pushing and refusing to let them leave. 
But they were evidently intimidated by the CD. on Sir Noel's car, 
for no one dared strike. The police, conspicuous all this time by their 
absence, had obviously been told not to interfere. Two gendarmes 
came by and refused to help; some time later another passed, and, 
finally,-in spite of much indignation, dispersed the crowd. 

I left Rome for Paris the following day. I tried to cash a cheque in 
a bank on the Piazza Colonna, but was told English money was no 
longer acceptable. I walked back to the hotel, through the Via delle 
Muratte, past the Trevi fountain. An old superstition invites travellers 
who are leaving Rome to throw a coin into the basin to ensure a 
speedy return. I walked past with my purse tightly shut. 


Chapter HI 




Metcalfe, aide-de-camp to the Duke of Windsor. 

"They've done it!" he said. 

"Who's done what?" 

"The Huns have crossed the Meuse in three places and broken into 
France at Sedan." 

"What does that mean?" 

"Good God, anything! It can mean they'll be in Paris in a fortnight. 
Or even sooner." 

I stared at Fruity disbelievingly. For nine months England and 
France had prepared for this attack; for nine months they had block- 
aded Germany with the purpose of forcing her to destroy herself 
against the invincible steel and concrete of the Maginot Line. They 
had even extended a formal invitation to her: "Come on, Hitler," said 
General Ironside, Commander-in-Chief of the British Imperial General 
Staff, "we're ready for you." Indeed the invulnerability of the Belgian 
and French fortifications was so unquestioned you began to hear the 
fear expressed that Germany might not attack and that the "bore" 
war would stretch on for years. When the onslaught finally came, 
brutal and savage as it was, people said with relief: "At last the end of 
the war is in sight." 

"God knows the Meuse looked formidable enough," Fruity con- 
tinued. "A great, broad, swirling river. Only a week ago I stood on 
the bank near Mezieres and a French officer said: This is an obstacle 
they won't ignore.' And what happened? They just marched up to it, 
flung pontoons down, and went romping across as though it were a 
duck puddle. This isn't a war, it's a race. Blitz is too conservative a 
word* Why, you can't even tack a map up on the wall, much less put 



the pins in, before it's all over. Only four days ago the Duke spent 
two hours searching the shops for a map of Holland. When he pulled 
it down this morning, he said: 'What country are we on now, Fruity?' 
I suppose to-night we'll take down Belgium and put up France." 

I thought Fruity was over-alarming and regarded his conversation 
sceptically; nevertheless, Sedan struck an ominous note. The last time 
the Germans had broken through at Sedan was in 1870 the time 
they'd got to Paris. I thought of Chesterton's poem* in which the old 
woman of Flanders says: 

Low and brown barns thatched and repatched and battered 

Where I had seven sons until to-day 

A little hill of hay your spur has scattered . . . 

This is not Paris. You have lost the way. 

You, staring at your sword to find it brittle, 
Surprised at the surprise that was your plan, 
Who, shaking and breaking barriers not a little, 
Find never more the death door of Sedan. 

The death door. They had found it again. Did it still lead to Paris? 
On this wonderful spring day, it was impossible even to contemplate. 
Perhaps it was the unusual quiet, but Paris seemed so magnificently 
aloof, you couldn't imagine it being despoiled. Many people, afraid 
of air attacks, had already left and there was only a thin stream of 
traffic on the boulevards; shops and restaurants were half empty and 
even the Ritz had lost its diehard patronage of women in wild hats. 
In my hotel off the Place Vendome, there was no one except the con- 
cierge, the cat and myself. 

Somehow the deserted, early-on-Sunday-morning look gave the 
capital a fresh beauty; there was a new softness in the wind blowing 
through the trees, the graceful sweep of the long avenues, and the 
wonderful blue-grey of the houses along the Seine. Every now and 
then the sirens broke the quiet, but there were never any planes and 
no one bothered to take shelter; everyone did exactly what they were 
told not to do, poking their heads out of the windows and looking 
up at the sky. 

But in spite of the tranquillity, underneath there was a current of 
apprehension. People seemed only too willing to believe tales of Ger- 

* From "Wife of Flanders" included in THE COLLECTED POEMS OF G. K. CHESTERTON. 
Copyright, 1932, by Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc. 


man invincibility. When the concierge brought me the morning paper, 
he added bits of information of his own: that the Germans were taking 
no prisoners, but shooting everyone indiscriminately, and that the 
whole of Holland was in ashes. He had wild stories about parachutists; 
how the skies were black with them, and how they came down 
machine-gunning and dropping bombs from the air. 

He was not the only one. Parachute stories seemed to be on every- 
body's lips. You not only heard that nuns and priests were dropping 
from the heavens, but that whole choruses of ballet dancers were de- 
scending. When I went to see the Baroness on Tuesday afternoon, a 
friend came bursting into the flat with the news that one of them (I 
don r t know which brand) had just landed on the Champs-filysees. 
We hurried out on the balcony: all along the avenue groups of people 
were staring up at the sky. I never discovered the truth of the report, 
but Alexander Werth in The Last Days of Paris claims it was only a 
sausage balloon that settled in the Place de la Madeleine. The Baroness 
was most indignant. "It is bad enough," she said, "having the Bodies 
invade your country by land, but when they come floating down from 
the skies as sisters of mercy of mercy it is disgusting, the filthy 

After I left the Baroness, I walked down the Champs-E!ys6es, cut 
through the Faubourg St. Honore, and stopped at the British Embassy 
to see Sir Charles Mendl. The B.E.F. had a rule barring women cor- 
respondents from the front, and I asked Charles if he thought there 
was any possibility of getting round it. He seemed to think it would 
be difficult to manage in Paris and advised me to go to London and 
try and arrange it there. 

Charles was none too happy about the situation. "The German 
planes and guns are formidable enough," he said. "But even so, I 
don't think they're as dangerous as French morale. If that holds up, 
I'm confident everything will be all right, but if it doesn't . . ." 

Now I'd known Charles Mendl for over four years. He was one of 
my first friends in Europe and I never went through Paris without 
going to see him. He was one of the wisest people I knew and his 
twenty-five years in France had given him a deep understanding of 
the people; on many occasions he had made predictions contrary to 
die strong beliefs of the moment which invariably had been borne oat 


I had doubted his judgment about France at the time of Munich and 
he had been right: but I hadn't learned my lesson and now I doubted 
him again. The French politicians might be defeatists, but surely not 
the French Army: everyone knew that Frenchmen fought like tigers 
on their own soil. It was one of the things you were taught as a child. 
I told him I thought his fears would be unconfirmed and he said: "I 
hope so, but I don't think these are the same people that they were 
twenty years ago." 

I took Charles's advice and planned to leave for London the fol- 
lowing day. On the way back to the hotel I ran into Euan Butler. I 
hadn't seen him since the night Robert and Lucy had ridden the 
horses in the Golden Horseshoe night-club in Berlin. At the outbreak 
of war he had given up his job as Times correspondent and joined the 
Army. Now he was attached to G.H.Q. and had come up to Paris for 
a few hours on official business. He was returning to the front in the 
morning so we decided to celebrate, and went to dinner at Le Boeuf 
Sur Le Toit. There were only a few people in the restaurant, all of 
whom stared curiously at Euan's Scottish plaid trousers (he was with 
the Cameronians), some of them smiling a little. Although the atmos- 
phere was rather gloomy we had a good dinner and Euan was in high 
spirits the only really optimistic person I saw during my forty-eight 
hours' stay. When I asked him if the parachute stories were true, he 
said he believed a number of men had been dropped behind the 
French lines but certainly not dressed as nuns and bishops. He added 
someone had remarked facetiously that the French should advise the 
Germans that if they came down disguised as ballet dancers they must 
expect to be ravished by the troops. He said the morale was excellent 
at the French War Office and no one was in the least disturbed by the 
latest reports. The more the Germans extended themselves the more 
likely they were to be cut off when the counter-attack came. 

Of course. Why hadn't I thought of that myself. I went to bed 
immensely reassured and the next day left for London, my optimism 
fully restored. Even the French communique which confirmed 
Fruity's report, laconically admitting that "between Namur and 
Mzieres German troops crossed the river at three points" didn't 
alarm me. As the bus rattled through the streets of Paris on its way to 
Le Bourget, I didn't imagine the next time I saw the capital would be 


four weeks later exactly twenty-four hours before the German 
Army roared up the Champs-lysees* 

In London, everyone pinned their faith on the French counter- 
attack which never came. The French, people said, were wonderful 
improvisers. Although they had been surprised by the factors of the 
new mobile warfare, they were bound to rally, and when they struck 
it would be with terrible force. Day after day people picked up their 
morning papers expecting to read that the great offensive had begun; 
but the communique reported only fresh German advances. Then on 
May 2 8th King Leopold of the Belgians suddenly surrendered. 

That same night I dined with a British staff officer who had just 
returned from the front. When I told him I was trying to get to 
France, he said: "Find out why the French won't fight. Find out why 
they won't stick to their posts; why they won't engage the enemy; 
why they won't even counter-attack." 

When I asked him if the answer didn't lie in Germany's crushing 
superiority, he shook his head. In the last war, he said, the British and 
French Armies faced far more deadly fire than had been seen in this 
one. The tonnage of explosive from an artillery barrage was infinitely 
greater than that which the Germans could deliver by air. He also 
refuted the stories that the French anti-tank guns were too light to 
penetrate the heavy German tanks. (Experts claimed that the ordinary 
two-pound anti-tank gun, with which the French were well equipped, 
was powerful enough to disable tanks of the heaviest category.) 

I asked him what he thought the chances of the B.E.F. were, now 
that King Leopold had surrendered, and he replied bluntly: "Abso- 
lutely nil. They haven't got a chance. The whole lot's gone. If we get 
ten thousand back, we're lucky." 

A few hours before, in the House of Commons, Mr. Churchill had 
hinted at the same disaster. He had said: 

Meanwhile, the situation of the British and French Armies now en- 
gaged in a most severe battle and beset on three sides and from the air, 
is evidently extremely grave. The surrender of the Belgian Army in this 
manner adds appreciably to their grievous peril ... I expect to make 
a statement to the House on the general position when die result of the 


intense struggle now going on can be known and measured. This will 
not, perhaps, be until the beginning of next week. Meanwhile, the House 
should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that 
nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of 
our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; 
nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as 
on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief 
to the ultimate defeat of our enemies. 

In spite of this warning the general public seemed unaware of the 
gravity of the situation. Anne O'Neill's housekeeper, Mrs. Kinch, had 
two nephews with the B.E.F., but her only comment was: "Things 
looked just as bad in the last war. In the end it will be all right." 

For the people who knew, however, the following week was a grim 
one. On Thursday, May 30th, the attempt at evacuation began. Two 
days later I went down to Mereworth with Anne to spend the week- 
end with Esmond Harmsworth. The Germans had reached the Chan- 
nel ports and although the house was forty miles from the coast, the 
ground reverberated every now and then with the distant explosion of 
bombs. Loelia Westminster was there, quiet and depressed; it wasn't 
until the week-end was nearly over that she told us her brother was 
with the B.E.F. It must have been an unpleasant experience for her, 
for all day long fighters and bombers went over the house on their way 
to the battle. We sat out on the terrace and watched them pass, their 
silver wings almost indistinguishable against the sky. There always 
seemed to be more going out than coming back and we began mor- 
bidly to count the numbers. 

Now the miracle of the evacuation has passed into history. Every- 
one knows how hundreds of small sailing vessels, trawlers, mine- 
sweepers, and fishing smacks, crossed the Channel and brought back 
over two hundred and seventy thousand men from the shores of Dun- 
kirk. Anne and I drove down to Dover and saw some of the troops 
landing. Hundreds of them filed through the docks, dirty and tired. 
Some had equipment, some had none; some were in uniform and some 
in an odd assortment of sweaters and slacks. Most of them seemed in 
high spirits and waved at the crowd clustered against the railings to 
cheer them. The English soldiers grinned self-consciously and made 
jokes to each other; the French soldiers blew kisses to the girls. I went 


back to London by train and all along the way Union Jacks were 

Loelia Westminster's brother, Lord Sysonby, was among the last 
to return. A few days later I lunched at Loelia's and found him there. 
I was longing to get an account of the battle, but like most English- 
men, he revelled in understatement and it was difficult to fit the slender 
pieces into a composite picture. He said his regiment was fighting 
alongside a Belgian unit. When they heard the news of King Leopold's 
surrender, things became extremely awkward. They felt it would be 
in bad taste to raise the subject, but anxious to know what was going 
to happen, finally resorted to veiled hints. "Is it likely er do you 
suppose er will you be shoving off soon?" The Belgians gave them 
angry looks and announced that King, or no King, they were fighting 
to the end. 

He went on to describe the refugees along the road; the thousands 
of tanks, lorries and field guns that had to be abandoned in the fields. 
He said a good many villages and towns were being cleared of civilians, 
but the strangest evacuation he saw was that of a French Trappist 
Monastery. As the Trappists were vowed to silence, the whole thing 
was carried out by frantic signs and gestures. 

Although his own particular unit had been fighting one of the last 
rearguard actions, he minimized the part they had played. When I 
asked him if he'd come face to face with the Germans, he replied: 
"Only once. A lot of them came over a hill and what an extraordinary 
sight they were. They were wearing the most peculiar uniforms. Sort 
of grey trousers and strange-looking ties. They looked like Eton boys." 

Basil Dufferin, also at lunch, made an ill attempt at humour. "Could 
they run as fast?" 

"Yes, thank God!" 

Now if you hadn't taken into account that Lord Sysonby was an 
Englishman, you might have thought the whole retreat through Flan- 
ders to Dunkirk was one hilarious episode after another, and that his 
own particular role was one of a detached observer. But because he 
was an Englishman, you weren't surprised to read in The Times a 
few weeks later that he had been awarded the Distinguished Service 


Meanwhile, I was still trying to get to France. When the B.E,F. 
collapsed I made application to go into the French Army zone. The 
French Ministry of Information told me that although it was impos- 
sible to accredit me officially, they undoubtedly would be able to 
arrange a "tour" of the front. The days passed however, and I heard 
nothing further. Finally, on Monday morning June loth, the Ministry 
rang up, suggesting that I should go to Paris and arrange the final 
details there. The French Consul stamped my visa: "Good for one 
month"; that was four days before the Germans occupied the capital. 

At the time it didn't seem extravagant for the English papers were 
maintaining a persistent optimism. Although General Weygand had 
issued a desperate appeal in his Order of the Day, Sunday, twenty-four 
hours previously ("We have reached the last quarter of an hour. 
Stand firm.") the Monday headlines of The Daily Telegraph read: 
"French Hold German Onslaught. Heaviest Defence in History. Nazi 
Prisoners tell of Serious Setback. Aisne Attacks Wholly Stemmed." 

Also on the front page was the following despatch: 

From our Correspondent. 

PARIS, Sunday. 

Paris will never be Hitler's intact, according to a French Govern- 
ment spokesman today. When I asked whether, if the worst came to the 
worst, the French would declare Paris an "open" city in an effort to 
spare the world's most beautiful city, the spokesman answered: "Never. 
We're confident that Hitler's mechanized hordes will never get to Paris. 
But should they come so far, you may tell your countrymen we shall 
defend every stone, every clod of earth, every lamp-post, every building, 
for we would rather have our city razed to the ground than fall into the 
hands of the Germans." 

Faced with the decision of choosing between the fate of Warsaw and 
that of Rotterdam, the French true to the finest traditions of a nation 
that has never yet asked for quarter have decided that they would 
prefer their city, with its finest art treasures, to be destroyed to any sort 
of capitulation to invaders. If the army that has no face wants Paris, it 
will have to fight for it. 

Incidentally, there is the fact that against a great city tanks are com- 
pletely impotent. The German dead will be piled high in the suburbs 
before a single Nazi enters a great heap of ruins. 

It looked as though Paris would stand for a while. My chances of 


getting there however, seemed slim; for that night the Italians entered 
the war, the Germans crossed the Seine thirty miles south-east of 
Rouen and Mr. Rogers of Cook's Travel Bureau telephoned to say 
all planes had been suspended. That day however, I lunched with 
Baba and Fruity Metcalfe. Lord Halifax was there and I took heart 
from his remark: "I haven't any reason to be optimistic, but I have a 
feeling from now on things will take a turn for the better." 

Perhaps, I thought, I'll make it after all. Sure enough, the following 
morning Mr. Rogers rang at nine-thirty and said a plane was leaving 
and could I be at the Imperial Airways Office in twenty minutes? I was 
still in bed. I rang every bell in the house, flung things haphazardly into 
a suitcase, pulled on a dress and bolted out of the door. I made it. 
Half an hour later I was in a bus, headed for Croydon. 

It was only then that I had a chance to look at the papers. In the 
Telegraph I read: 

While the French Army is preparing to make a back-to-the-wall 
stand before the gates of Paris and the citizens of the French capital are 
pouring southwards, the enemy redoubled his efforts forty miles to the 
north and fierce fighting continued during the day. 

A backs-to-the-wall stand before the gates of Park The siege might 
last for days. 



Chapter IV 




of us knew where we were landing just "somewhere in France." 
We headed across the Channel, flew very low across Guernsey, and 
still lower when we reached the coast of France. At times it seemed 
as though we were barely missing the roof-tops of the farmhouses 
along the way. 

The nose of our plane pointed first one way, then another, as we 
followed a zig-zag course. After about an hour and a half we began 
circling around a large aerodrome. The ground was gouged with 
bomb craters and two of the hangars were smashed. People came run- 
ning out of the buildings gesticulating and pointing at us. 

The field had been turned into a military aerodrome and when we 
landed crowds of workers, in blue overalls, surged around the plane 
staring curiously at us, as though we had dropped from Mars. I asked 
one of them where we were and he replied: "Tours." I couldn't 
imagine why everyone regarded us so strangely until I learned that 
ours was the first plane to arrive in forty-eight hours; the only reason 
we had come was that our pilot had argued with the company, finally 
persuading them, at the last moment, to let him risk the flight. 

Certainly no one was expecting us. After a long wait at the aero- 
drome a bus arrived and drove us to a small yard at the back of the 
station. We were not allowed to leave the bus until the Custom's In- 
spector arrived, and the Custom's Inspector was nowhere to be found. 
We sat there for five hours while numerous French officials, all very 
excited, swarmed around criticizing the situation. We begged for per- 
mission to go to a restaurant, but the authorities were adamant: a fierce 



encounter took place between them and one of the passengers, an 
old man, determined to go to the Gentlemen's room. He was finally 
taken off under guard. 

Most of the passengers were English. Two were staying in Tours; 
three were trying to get to Marseilles to make a connection for North 
Africa; three to Bordeaux; and one, a young woman, to Switzerland 
to join her husband who was in the British Legation. Besides myself, 
the only other person headed for Paris was a fat, excitable little man 
with black hair greatly in need of cutting, and a yellow, greasy face. 
He spoke English with an accent and I wondered what nationality he 
was. He seemed dreadfully agitated and kept asking what time the 
trains went to Paris. When one of the authorities shrugged his 
shoulders and said sharply: "Paris is out of the question. No one is 
going to Paris any more," he looked close to tears. 
"I must go to Paris. Surely, there's some way . . ." 
I promptly sided with him. "I must go to Paris, too," I said, firmly. 
"Je crois que c'est impossible. (Test trh dangereux." 
"I don't care whether it's dangerous," gasped the little man. "Are 
the trains running? That's all I want to know." 
The official shrugged his shoulders and walked away. 
"Don't worry," I said. "We'll get there some way. If the trains 
aren't running, perhaps we can hire a car." 

"Yes, yes," he moaned. His fat face was more greasy than ever, 
and he took out a handkerchief to mop his brow. 

At five o'clock the Custom's Inspector arrived and inspected our 
baggage. One of the Air France officials was with him and when 
we asked him about the trains, he replied, as though it were the 
most natural thing in the world: "Paris? Certainement! There is a 
train leaving in twenty minutes." 
The little man and I made a dash for the station. 
It was an extraordinary sight. Overflowing with humanity, it looked 
like the sort of station you'd see in India, with people jostling, push- 
ing, sleeping and even eating on the platform. Everyone had dozens 
of bags and bundles and hundreds of people sat around waiting for 

The little man pushed up to one of the ticket offices and made 
enquiries, but was told the train wasn't expected until eight o'clock. 


We bought our tickets and went to a caf 6 across the street to get 
something to eat. 

It was the first time I had had a chance to take in the scene around 
me. Trucks and motor-cars piled high with possessions were rolling 
through Tours. Refugees were everywhere; wandering along the 
streets and flowing into restaurants and cafes, just to get a place to sit 
down. The cafe proprietor refused to let us come in at first until we 
persuaded him we really wanted to buy something. 

The little man (I never learned his name) told me that he was an 
Egyptian who had come to France for a few months' stay. He was an 
official in the Egyptian Government an Under Secretary of State 
for Public Works and had gone to London on a few days' business. 
Owing to the suspension of aeroplane services he had been unable to 
get back to France until now. He had left his two small children in 
Paris and over a thousand pounds cash, which he had taken out of the 
bank and hidden in the house. "I don't care about the money," he kept 
saying. "But, my children. They've got a nurse looking after them, 
but she won't know what to do. Heaven knows what will happen to 
them if I don't get to Paris." 

I tried to calm him but he was so nervous he couldn't sit still. 
Every ten minutes he hurried across the square to inquire again what 
time the train was coming. He finally suggested that we wait in the 
station to be sure not to miss it; so, laden with bags and baggage, we 
pushed our way through the throng and sat on the draughty platform. 

We sat there for exactly six hours, for the train, due at eight, didn't 
arrive until midnight. He was right to have insisted on our getting 
a place near the track for when it came there was a wild scramble and 
hundreds of people surged on. We were packed in the compartment 
so rightly we could scarcely breathe. The congestion, however, lasted 
only a short while, for the train stopped at a station about twenty miles 
away, and everyone got off to make a connection for Bordeaux. The 
rest of the way there were only three of us as passengers the Egyp- 
tian, myself and a middle-aged Frenchman who owned a shop in the 
Latin Quarter and was returning to look after it. 

It was a strange trip with the empty train thundering over the 
tracks, the wind blowing through the windows, and the terrible 
stillness of the blackened countryside. The Frenchman was pessi- 


mistic and said he thought the situation was hopeless. iC We may 
arrive in Paris to find the Germans already there/' 

"Nonsense!" I replied. "They can't break through the city's de- 
fenses overnight. If they have to fight for it street by street it won't 
be easy. Things always sound much worse than they are. We'll prob- 
ably arrive to find everything more normal than Tours." 

I wasn't saying this to encourage the Egyptian; I believed it. I re- 
membered the alarming reports I'd heard before I'd gone to Spain: I 
remembered how Franco's troops had marched up to the very gates of 
Madrid and how the capital had stood for over two years. The con- 
fusion in Tours hadn't been reassuring, but experience had taught me 
that often the closer you get to the front, the calmer it is. I hadn't yet 
realized I was seeing the beginning of the collapse of France. 

Certainly, I wasn't prepared for the scene that greeted us when 
we pulled into the Austerlitz Station in Paris. It was about five o'clock 
in the morning and dawn was just breaking. The station was almost 
deserted and there was no one to collect our tickets. In fact, there 
wasn't a sign of life: not a porter, not a taxi, not a newspaper-boy 
nothing. But when we walked out to the street it was a different 
matter. The great iron gates in front of the station were bolted and in 
front of them was an enormous crowd of people, shouting and 
yelling. It was one vast sea of faces. Everybody was loaded with bags 
and bundles, even bird cages and all kinds of pets. A squad of 
gendarmes had climbed up on the iron railings and were shouting at 
them to go away: "No more trains are leaving Paris! The last train 
has left! Go home, I tell you, no more trains are leaving Paris." 

The crowd shouted back: "Open the gates! Open the gates!" A 
man's voice rose above the tumult. "If they won't run the trains for 
us, we'll run them ourselves!" 

The policeman, tired and exasperated, kept replying it was hope- 
less, but it didn't seem to be doing any good. All the time more 
people were coming streaking across the square from every direction. 

"Well," said the French business man, acidly, "what do you think 
of it? Is this what you expected? I don't think we've got a chance of 
getting a taxi." 

We pushed our way through the crowds and walked down the 
street. A taxi drew up and nine people spilled out. We went up to 


the driver, asked if he were free, and he nodded. I didn't realize at the 
time what a stroke of luck it was, but I later discovered we had what 
was apparently the only roving taxi in the whole of Paris. 

The Frenchman said he lived only a block or so away and preferred 
to walk. The Egyptian and I climbed in and just as we were starting 
off, a French girl knocked on the window and asked if we would 
give her a lift. The Egyptian asked me to drop him on the way; when 
I left him I gave him my name and told him if I could do anything 
for him to let me know. I then asked the girl where she wanted me to 
take her. She was young and pretty and neatly dressed. She looked 
at me and smiled, and said: "Nowhere. I just thought Yd like to ride 

She certainly had a long ride for we drove around Paris for nearly 
two hours. First, I went up and rang the Ritz door bell. After five or 
ten minutes the concierge appeared, opened the door cautiously, and 
told me the hotel was closed. "Everyone has left." I begged him to 
let me have a room, but he just repeated: "No, no, the hotel is closed. 
Everyone has left." Then banged the door. 

I next went to the Hotel Vendome, a few blocks away; there I was 
told the same thing. Then began an endless trek over Paris. I must 
have tried fifteen hotels. Some of the porters slammed the door in 
my face, some shouted angrily, some refused to answer. When I asked 
if they knew of one that was open, they glared sullenly and shook 
their heads. All this while the girl sat in the taxi-cab, puffing a ciga- 
rette, and watching the proceedings with interest. 

"What's happened?" I asked. "Has everyone left Paris?" 

"Oh no, mademoiselle, it's curious, isn't it? There hasn't been 
any official evacuation. The only people who are leaving are the 
ones who are afraid of the bombs. They think Paris is going to be 

"What about you? Aren't you leaving?" 

"Oh no, not unless the Germans get closer. I will leave before 
the Boches come. But that will be a long time from now." 

"D'you mean to say, all these people are leaving just because 
they're frightened? Surely the Boches must be very close." 

"Oh no, mademoiselle, truly it is only on account of the bombs. 


If there were any real danger, the Goverment would have told us 
to leave." 

"Have you got a family in Paris?" 

"No, I'm all alone. But I've lived here all my life. I'm a Parisienne." 

"Do you work? Have you got a job?" 

"No, mademoiselle." (It suddenly dawned on me she was 
obviously a cocotte.) 

"But if it's only that people are frightened, why should all the 
hotels be shut?" 

"The bombs, mademoiselle. Only the bombs." 

The taxi-driver nodded pleasantly, supporting her theory. It 
seemed extraordinary to me. In spite of all the reports about a 
"backs-to-the-wall-stand before Paris," the capital certainly did not 
look like a city prepared to defend itself. Where were the barricades? 
Where were the troops? Where were the guns? In fact, where was 
anything or anyone? The only people I'd seen so far were a dozen 
concierges, three gendarmes, and a mob of panic-stricken civilians, 
trying to get away. 

I finally gave up the hotels and decided to search for some of my 
friends. I told the driver to go to the Quai de Bethune where Knick- 
erbocker lived. The big doors were shut, but after ringing the bell 
for ten minutes there was finally a buzzing noise and I pushed my 
way into the courtyard. 

"Qwi est W?" called the concierge through the window. 

"Is Mr. Knickerbocker in?" 

"No, no. He left Paris three or four days ago." 

Now for the first time I began to get worried. If Knickerbocker 
had left, things must be bad. I drove up to the Place Madeleine where 
Eddie Ward was staying, but he, too, had gone. Then I drove up 
the Champs-lysees to the Baroness' flat but found the doors locked 
and the house deserted. 

I stood in the middle of the street and wondered what to do. The 
girl was still seated comfortably in the cab, puffing a cigarette; the 
driver, a middle-aged man with a large moustache, seemed to have 
settled down to a morning's work. I had only brought a hundred 
francs in French currency and had spent ninety of it on the ticket to 
Paris. I had only English money to pay him off with and wondered 


what was going to happen. Across the street was the Rue de Bern. 
From the back of my mind I vaguely remembered Walter Kerr re- 
marking one day, in Finland, that some of the journalists used to 
gather there, at the Hotel Lancaster, for poker games. I decided to 
talk with the concierge and see if he could give me any news. "Is 
Mr. Kerr staying here?" I asked. 

"Oui, mademoiselle." 

I was so astonished I couldn't believe my ears. 

"I must speak to him immediately." 

The concierge argued that Walter was not yet awake, but I finally 
persuaded him to connect me on the house telephone. 

"Who is it?" came a sleepy voice. 

"This is Virginia Cowles. Will you lend me two hundred francs 
to pay off my cab? I haven't got any money." 

"What in heaven's name are you doing here? Have you come for 
the occupation?" 

"Goodness, no! I've just come for a day or so." 

"Listen," said Walter. "Either you're not making much sense, or 
I'm not. I'll send this money down to you straight away and will meet 
you for breakfast in an hour. Will two hundred francs be enough?" 

I gave the whole amount to the taxi-driver, told him to take the 
girl where she wanted to go and to come back at noon in case I 
wanted him. But he evidently got a better offer, for he went roaring 
down the Champs-lysees and that was the last I saw of either one of 

On Thursday morning, June i ith, people in England and America 
opened their morning papers to read: "Germans seventeen miles 
from Paris." I wonder how many visualized what Paris was like. No 
one had ever seen a Paris like this before; only a handful of foreigners 
can tell the story of the gayest city in the world silent and abandoned, 
with its boulevards empty, its cafes closed, its shutters drawn, its 
telegraph and telephone communications cut the story of a Paris 
so quiet there was literally scarcely a cat stirring. 

I was astonished. At five or six in the morning there was nothing 
unusual in the drawn shutters and the empty streets. But now it was 


ten o'clock. When Walter Kerr and I drove up the Champs-lys6es 
the sun streamed through the chestnut trees as it always does in May, 
but that was all to remind you of the Paris you knew. Gone were the 
noisy crowds, the rich smell of tobacco, the water splashing from 
the fountains. To-day there was only an empty sweep. Ours was the 
only car on the whole avenue. It was so quiet the click of our tyres 
echoed loudly. 

It was still a shock to me Paris was not going to be defended. It 
must have been a shock to a great many other people as well, for it 
was only that morning that posters were pasted up on the buildings 
declaring the capital an "open city" the first warning the people of 
Paris were given. I thought of the little cocotte and wondered what 
she'd say when she read them. I couldn't understand why the Gov- 
ernment had taken no pains to advise the civilians what to do, but 
Walter said they had behaved disgracefully all the way along. The 
officials had declared firmly they were remaining in Paris, then on 
Monday had fled overnight without a word. Apart from the fact 
that the police had taken over the shops and that men of military 
age, who had not been mobilized, had been advised to leave, the 
people had been told nothing. 

We drove up the Champs-lysees as far as the Arc de Triomphe. 
The eternal flame was still burning and three gendarmes were stand- 
ing a lonely vigil. Then we drove down the Avenue Marceau, across 
the Pont d'Alma and past the Invalides where a fleet of five or six 
hundred cabs were lined up, evidently awaiting a last-minute evacua- 
tion of papers and documents. We passed the Scale Militaire. Here, 
too, men were carrying out cases of files and loading them on vans. 

We cut through some of the side streets of the Latin quarter, and 
in the poorer sections found the streets crowded. Vendors with carts 
of fruit and vegetables were doing their usual business and housewives 
bargained as persistently as they always had. These were the people 
too poor to leave Paris. Back on the main boulevards once again the 
only sign of life were occasional groups laden with bags and bundles, 
starting out of the capital on foot; and every now and then an auto- 
mobile that came hurtling out of a side street, careening under the 
weight of household possessions piled on the roof. 


Walter shook his head grimly. "This is a morning we'll never 

"Yes. I suppose this is what people call seeing history in the making 
or the unmaking. But I wish I'd missed this particular chapter." 

I didn't want to remember Paris like this. It was like watching 
someone you loved dying; like seeing a face unrecognizable through 
illness. With only twenty-four more hours to live, the heart-beat 
of the capital had already grown so faint you could scarcely hear it. 

"You'll never get out of here before the Germans come," said 
Walter. "There's no way to get out. There isn't an automobile to 
be had for love or money in the whole city. I'd let you take mine, 
but I've got exactly one gallon of petrol and that wouldn't get you 
very far. Anyway, they may be in here any hour. God knows, there's 
nothing to stop them." 

"You mean there's no fighting going on?" 

"Well, listen. D'you hear any guns? The Germans can't be more 
than twenty minutes away by car and d'you hear the sound of a 
single gun?" 

All day long I kept my ears trained, but there was no gunfire: 
only a deathly quiet. When Walter and I drove down to the Place de 
la Concorde, we saw a group of soldiers about half a dozen of them 
plodding across the square. Their faces were grimy and their 
clothes caked with mud. Two of them were limping, a third had a 
bandage round his head, a fourth was walking in his stockinged feet, 
carrying his shoes. They were evidently stragglers who had got lost 
or deserted, and were making their way back to their homes. But 
there was no one to notice them. No one had time for soldiers now. 

Walter was the permanent Paris correspondent of the Herald 
Tribune and one of the half a dozen American journalists remaining 
in Paris for the German occupation. All the others had left three days 
previously. It looked as though I was going to see the occupation, 
too, whether I liked it or not, and I began trying to figure how 
eventually I would ever get back to England. 

'With Italy in the war, your only hope will be travelling via 
Russia, the Orient and America. Or perhaps you could go by Norway 
and Sweden to Finland and get a boat from Petsamo across the 
North Sea." 


Neither particularly appealed to me. I pictured myself travelling 
for the rest of the war. 

"But d'you mean to say you didn't know what you were getting 
yourself in for?" Walter persisted. "Here in Paris the journalists 
have known since Tuesday the city wasn't going to be defended." 

I told him I hadn't seen a newspaper for twenty-four hours, but 
up till then there was no intimation in the English papers that Paris 
was to be an open city. On the contrary, they had printed des- 
patches claiming it would be defended to the last ditch. I still had 
yesterday's Daily Express with me and showed him the British United 
Press story dated, Paris, Tuesday: 

The Military authorities took over control of Paris to-day. All high- 
ways into the city have been barricaded, and preparations were being 
made to defend it street by street should this be necessary. Planes were 
heard throughout the night, and anti-aircraft at intervals. Heavier gun- 
fire can be heard from time to time from the north. 

Meanwhile, the exodus of civilians goes on. Throughout the night, 
women, children and old people poured southwards and the trek con- 
tinues to-day. But Paris refuses to panic. Shops open as usual; even 
jewellery is still on display in windows. The spirit of France is exemplified 
in Le Matin to-day. It says: "Two thousand years ago the bridges were 
destroyed and the suburbs of the city set on fire for the purpose of 
holding the enemy. So there is nothing new under the sun. In the worst 
crises Paris remains unsubdued. Paris never submits." 

Walter admitted it didn't give much indication of things. 

"But what do the people of Paris think?" I asked. "Do they want 
to see their city handed over without a fight?" 

"I don't know. Most of them are in such a panic it's hard to tell. 
They don't know what's going on, poor things. And if they did, 
there isn't much they could do about it. Right now, I can't bring 
myself to talk with any of them about it. For the last twenty-four 
hours I've avoided them like a plague and stuck with the journalists. 
It's too awful to talk about." 

I shared Walter's feeling. The last thing I wanted to do was raise 
the subject. In fact, the only conversation I had was with one of the 
men in a garage a few doors away from the Lancaster. While I was 
waiting for Walter, I decided to find out just how bad the automo 


bile situation really was. I walked in and asked if there were any 
cars either for sale or for hire. The garage proprietor was a huge, 
bulky man and he glared at me angrily. 

"Listen, if there was one car in Paris, one car, I would have it. In 
fact, if it were possible to steal a car, I would have it. I would even 
kill someone to get a car. Instead, I must stay here and watch the 
filthy Boches come into Paris." He hissed the word "Boches" then 
spat violently on the floor. 

Walter and I decided the American Embassy was my only hope. 
The Ambassador, William Bullitt, and his staff were remaining for 
the occupation and the Stars and Stripes still fluttered reassuringly 
from the flagpole. When we drew up in front of it, an elderly man 
who had been wandering around in the courtyard came running up 
to us and begged us to help him to get out of Paris. He spoke English 
with a thick accent and told us he was a German-Jew, the head of 
an anti-Nazi organization. "If they find me here, they will shoot me." 
He was so agitated he could scarcely get the words out. We told 
him we had no way of leaving Paris ourselves and asked if the Em- 
bassy couldn't help him, but he shook his head and said he had tried 
everything. He went off, his shoulders bent in despair. Walter said 
the Embassy had been besieged by hundreds of these people and had 
helped all they could. "But that poor devil hasn't got much of a 
chance. Anti-Nazi or not, no one's going to give a German a lift for 
fear he'll turn out to be a Fifth Columnist." 

Walter and I went into the Embassy and first called on Colonel 
Fuller, the American Military Attache. He was none too cordial and 
I could scarcely blame him: stranded women journalists were a final 
straw. He said he would do his best, but offered little hope. Then 
we went to the Ambassador's secretary, who was more sympathetic 
but no more optimistic. 

We walked down the white marble steps. "There's no use bother- 
ing about it any more," I said. "Here I am and here I'll have to stay." 

Just then there was a voice, "Hi, Walter." It was Henry Cassidy of 
the Associated Press. They discussed the situation, then Walter told 
him of my predicament. 

"Oh, I think I can give you a hand," he said cheerfully. "Tom 
Healy, the London Daily Mirror correspondent, has just arrived in 


Paris. He's like you, he didn't know what was going on either. He'd 
been cruising around the Italian-French frontier, hadn't had any news 
for a couple of days, and just drifted in by accident. He's got a 
Chrysler roadster and if he hasn't already promised to take someone 
else, I'm sure he'll be glad to give you a lift." 

The suspense of the next hour while Cassidy tried to get hold of 
Tom seemed endless. At one o'clock he finally sent a message to say 
the latter was leaving in the late afternoon and would take me with 

"If the Germans aren't already here by then," said Walter darkly. 

I spent the next couple of hours typing out my story in the Herald 
Tribune office. Walter wrote a despatch which I promised to send 
for him from Tours. A small bistro was open near the office and we 
tried to get something to eat, but all they had was coffee. There was 
plenty of food in Paris, they said, but no vans or trucks to distribute 
it. Walter had some biscuits which I was thankful for; except for a 
cup of tea the day before and coffee in the morning, I hadn't had 
anything to eat for nearly forty-eight hours. 

I left Paris about five o'clock in the afternoon. When I went into 
the Hotel Lancaster to get my bag, the porter, who was sitting 
gloomily at the desk said, "You're leaving too?" His voice was almost 
reproachful and I had a sudden feeling of guilt as though I had no 
right to go. "Your country is our only hope now," he added bitterly. 
"Americans have always loved Paris. Perhaps now they will help us." 

What a hope, I thought. During the last nine months America had 
watched eight countries being overrun. The land of liberty sent 
plenty of sympathy but little else. "How does it affect our interests?" 
That was what she asked, while Europe ran with blood. A feeling 
of anger surged up in me. What was the matter with my country 
that it could remain so indifferent to the obliteration of the civilized 
world her world? 

Tom Healy's car pointed southwards out of Paris. We drove along 
the banks of the Seine and saw the reflection of the wonderful blue- 
grey buildings shimmering in the water. Neither of us looked back. 


Chapter V. 




confusion, of the thick smell of petrol, of the scraping of automobile 
gears, of shouts, wails, curses, tears. Try to think of a hot sun and 
underneath it an unbroken stream of humanity flowing southwards 
from Paris, and you have a picture of the gigantic civilian exodus that 
presaged the German advance. 

I had seen refugees before. I had seen them wending their way 
along the roads of Spain and Czechoslovakia; straggling across the 
Polish-Roumanian frontier, trudging down the icy paths of Finland. 
But I had never seen anything like this. This was the first mechanized 
evacuation in history. There were some people in carts, some on foot 
and some on bicycles. But for the most part everyone was in a car. 

Those cars, lurching, groaning, backfiring, represented a Noah's 
Ark of vehicles. Anything that had four wheels and an engine was 
pressed into service, no matter what the state of decrepitude; there 
were taxi-cabs, ice-trucks, bakery vans, perfume wagons, sports road- 
sters and Paris buses, all of them packed with human beings. I even 
saw a hearse loaded with children. They crawled along the roads two 
and three abreast, sometimes cutting across the fields and traddling die 
ditches. Tom and I caught up with the stream a mile or so outside 
Paris on the Paris-Dourdan-Chartres road and in the next three hours 
covered only nine miles. 

We saw terrible sights. All along the way cars that had run out of 
petrol or broken down, were pushed into the fields. Old people, too 
tired or ill to walk any farther, were lying on the ground under the 
merciless glare of the sun. We saw one old woman propped up in the 
ditch with the family clustered around trying to pour some wine down 



her throat. Often the stream of traffic was held up by cars that stalled 
and refused to move again. One car ran out of petrol halfway up a 
hill. It was a bakery van, driven by a woman. Everyone shouted and 
honked their horns, while she stood in the middle of the road with her 
four children around her begging someone to give her some petrol. 
No one had any to spare. Finally, three men climbed out of a truck 
and in spite of her agonied protests, shoved the car into the ditch. It 
fell with a crash. The rear axle broke and the household possessions 
piled on top sprawled across the field. She screamed out a frenzy of 
abuse, then flung herself on the ground and sobbed. Once again the 
procession moved on. 

In that world of terror, panic and confusion, it was difficult to be- 
lieve that these were the citizens of Paris, citizens whose forefathers 
had fought for their freedom like tigers and stormed the Bastille with 
their bare hands. For the first time, I began to understand what had 
happened to France. Morale was a question of faith; faith in your 
cause, faith in your goal, but above all else, faith in your leaders. How 
could these people have faith in leaders who had abandoned them? 
Leaders who had given them no directions, no information, no re- 
assurances; who neither had arranged for their evacuation nor called 
on them to stay at their places and fight for Paris until the last? If 
this was an example of French leadership, no wonder France was 
doomed. Everywhere the machinery seemed to have broken down. 
The dam had begun to crumble and hysteria, a trickle at first, had 
grown into a torrent. 

Even the military roads were overrun with panic-stricken civilians. 
Tom was an officially accredited war correspondent, so he swung off 
on to one of them. Although the entrance was patrolled by gendarmes, 
who demanded our credentials, there was no one to keep traffic from 
streaming in at the intersections and a mile or so farther on we once 
again found civilian cars moving along two or three abreast. At one 
point an artillery unit on its way up to the new front southeast of 
Paris was blocked by a furniture truck stalled across the road. The 
driver, with perspiration pouring down his face was trying to crank 
the car while the soldiers yelled and cursed at him. One of them paced 
angrily up and down, saying "Filthy civilians. Filthy, filthy civilians." 
At last, the truck got started again and the unit moved past. Another 


time, a procession of ambulances, with gongs clanging frantically, 
were held up by congestion on the outskirts of a village for over an 
hour. The drivers swore loudly but it had little effect; I wondered 
what was happening to the poor devils inside. 

The only military units that succeeded in getting a clear berth were 
the tanks. Once we looked back to see two powerful fifteen-ton mon- 
sters thundering up behind us. They were travelling about forty miles 
an hour and the effect was remarkable. People gave one look and 
pulled in to the ditches. They went rolling by, the great treads tear- 
ing up the earth and throwing pieces of dirt into the air like a fountain. 
After them came a number of fast-moving lorries and a string of 
soldiers on motor-cycles with machine-guns attached to the side-cars. 
They all seemed in excellent spirits: one of the tanks was gaily marked 
in chalk "La Petite Marie" and the trucks and guns were draped with 
flowers. Two of the motor-cyclists shouted at us, asking if we had any 
cigarettes. Tom told me to throw them a couple of packages. They 
were so pleased they signalled us to follow them, escorted us past the 
long string of civilian cars to the middle of the convoy and placed us 
firmly between the two tanks. For the next ten or fifteen minutes we 
roared along at forty miles an hour. Unfortunately, eight or nine miles 
down the road they turned off, the motor-cyclists waved good-bye and 
blew us kisses, and once again we found ourselves caught up in the 
slow-moving procession of evacuees. 

It was nearly nine o'clock now and we had covered little more than 
twenty miles. "I wonder if we'll make it," said Tom, looking at his 
watch. When we had left Paris at five o'clock there were already re- 
ports that the Germans were circling around on both sides of the 
capital to cut off the roads in the rear. Tom had a military map and 
we decided to try the cross-country lanes. Some of them were scarcely 
more than footpaths but we could at least average ten or twelve miles 
an hour, which was a great improvement. It was getting so dark it 
was difficult to see and twice we barely avoided running over people 
with no lights on their bicycles. Suddenly the sky lit up with a flash 
and we heard a far-away rumble. It was the first gunfire I had heard 
all day. "Something's creeping up on us," said Tom. "Still, if we keep 
on like this, I think we'll be all right." 

We drove along the twisting lane for five or six miles. It was a 


relief to be in the open countryside away from the suffocating smell 
of petrol, but the road was so black the driving was a strain. Tom had 
some food in the back of the car and we decided to stop and have 
something to eat. He was in favour of finding a haystack to lean 
against, but the next few miles of country were barren and rocky. At 
last we saw a clump of trees outlined in the darkness. It seemed the 
best we could do, so we pulled over to the side of the road. The car 
gave a violent lurch and careened into a six-foot ditch. Only the 
right wheels were gripping the road. The left side was flat against the 
earth. We were suspended at such a sharp angle we had difficulty in 
forcing the upper door, but at last succeeded in climbing out. 

The rumble of guns seemed to be louder and the flashes against the 
sky more frequent. "Baches or no Boches" said Tom, "it looks as 
though we're going to linger here a while. Let's pick out a place to 
eat, then I'll see if I can find someone to give us a hand." 

But even here we were frustrated. The field was soaking wet. There 
was one miserable haystack in the middle of it, damp and soggy. We 
went back to the road and paced up and down for ten or fifteen min- 
utes, wondering if anyone would pass. It was getting cold and I began 
to shiver. After having cursed the traffic for hours, it was slightly 
ironical to find ourselves longing for the sight of a human being. 

Tom finally started back to the last village, several miles away, and 
I climbed back into the car (which was like going down a toboggan 
slide) to try and get warm. It was a beautiful night. The sky was clear 
and starry, and the only noise to break the quiet was the drone of 
crickets and the spasmodic thunder of guns. I wondered how far the 
Germans had got. Funny to think that people in America probably 
knew more than we did as to what was going on. 

It was nearly midnight when Tom got back again. He had tried a 
dozen farmhouses but everyone was in bed. At last (with the help of 
a hundred-franc note) he had extracted a promise from one of the 
farmers to come at dawn with a team of horses and pull us out. 

That was seven precious hours away, but it was the best he could 
do. As an American citizen, I was in no danger, but if Tom were 
captured, it meant an internment camp for the rest of the war. He 
Appeared completely unruffled, however, and commented with char- 


acteristic English calmness: "Well, there's nothing to be done about 
it. Now, let's eat. God, I'm hungry." 

We sat by the roadside, drinking wine and munching bread and 
cheese; then we got out all the coats and sweaters we could find, 
wrapped them round us, and climbed back into the car. The angle 
was so uncomfortable I slept only by fits and starts, expecting mo- 
mentarily to be awakened by the noise of German tanks. Luckily, no 
such startling developments took place. The farmer kept his promise 
and shortly after five o'clock appeared with two, large, fat, white 
horses who pulled the car out as easily as though it had been a per- 
ambulator. Once again we started on our way. 

We stopped at the next village I can't remember the name of it 
to get some coffee. The first sight that greeted us was half a dozen 
British Tommies lined up on the crooked cobble-stone street, the cor- 
poral standing in front of them, bawling them out for some misde- 
meanour. They were large, beefy-looking men that might have stepped 
out of a page from Punch. When the corporal dismissed them they 
grinned sheepishly and made a few jokes behind his back. Tom asked 
one of them where the officers were billeted, and I went into the cafe 
to try to get some of the grime off my clothes. In spite of the early 
hour there was a buzz of activity inside. Several people were sitting 
around, and a radio was blaring loudly. The announcer was saying 
something about the "heroic resistance of our troops." An old man 
made a gesture of disbelief and muttered something I couldn't hear. 
The woman with him replied angrily, her harsh voice echoing through 
the cafe: "JVe dites pas fa. II faut esperer." 

I asked the waitress if there was any coffee, but she regarded me in 
mild surprise and replied that the refugees had gone through the 
village like a swarm of locusts. "Everywhere," he said, "they have 
stripped the countryside bare." 

It took me some time to get clean again, and when I came out I 
found Tom waiting for me with two officers, wearing the insignia 
of the Royal Engineers. They offered to give us breakfast and led 
us down the street to the mess. They seemed to know little more than 
we did; they told us they had just received orders to move up to a new 
position. Most of them had been in France for the last five or six 
months and pressed us eagerly with questions about England. French 


morale may have been shaky, but there was nothing downhearted 
about this group. "You don't think people at home will be discouraged 
by this setback, do you?" 'Setback!' That was a good one, I thought. 
When we climbed into the car again they all clustered around and one 
of them said: "Well, so long. See you in Cologne next Christmas!" 

We did the next hundred miles to Tours in about five hours. We 
had learned the trick now and kept entirely to the country lanes 
which, rough though they were, were fairly clear of refugees. It was 
only when we got within ten miles of Tours and were forced back 
on the main road again that the trickle once again became a mighty 
stream. Added to this, Tom's radiator began leaking. The water boiled 
up and clouds of steam began pouring out of the front. It took us 
nearly an hour to get into the city. The great bridge over the Loire 
looked like a long thin breadcrust swarming with ants. 

Finally at one-thirty, with Tom's car gasping and heaving, we drew 
up before the Hotel de 1'Univers. The first person I saw was Knicker- 
bocker, just coming out of the door. 

"My God! How did you get here?" 

"You're always asking me that." 

"But where've you come from?" 


"Paris! But the Germans went into Paris hours ago. When did you 

I told him. 

"They were in the Bois de Boulogne last night. You must have 
rubbed shoulders with them on the way out. Probably you just didn't 
recognize them," he added with a grin. "All soldiers look grey in 
the dark." 

Tours was bedlam. The French High Command had announced 
that the River Loire was to be the next line of defence and all sorts of 
wild rumors were circulating: first, that the German Air Force had 
threatened to obliterate the town; and, second, that German motor- 
cycle units had reached Le Mans only thirty miles away, and were 
likely to come thundering through the streets at any moment now. 
The Government had already left for Bordeaux and the refugees who 


had scrambled into Tours in a panic were now trying to scramble out 
again in still more of a panic. I ran into Eddie Ward of the B.B.G, 
who told me that Press Wireless, the only means of communication 
with the outside world (all cables to England were sent via America 
at eightpence a word) was still functioning, and that he and the Renter 
staff were remaining another day. As it was my only chance to file a 
story, I decided to stay too. Eddie said Renter's could probably pro- 
vide me with a bed and he would give me a place in his car to Bordeaux 
in the morning. 

There were a good many speculations about Winston Churchill's 
conversation with Reynaud and Weygand three days before; he was 
believed to have urged the French, if the worst came to the worst, to 
continue the war from North Africa. Although it had been announced 
in London that complete agreement had been reached, "as to the 
measures to be taken to meet the developments in the war situation," 
most of the journalists were pessimistic about the prospects of France's 
continuation of the fight. French officials seemed in a state of moral 
collapse; even the censorship appeared to have broken down, but no 
one complained about that. Up nil this time despatches had been cen- 
sored so rigidly it was impossible to give any indication of the situation. 
Now, quite suddenly, everyone could say what they liked. I wrote a 
long piece about the panic and confusion along the road from Paris 
and not a word was cut. Gordon Waterfield sent a story suggesting 
that France was threatened with a defeat similar to that of 1870 and 
the next morning Harold King sent an even more pessimistic cable. 
Gordon told me fater that when these despatches reached London the 
censors were so surprised they held them up for a considerable time 
while they found out from higher authorities whether it was really 
true that France was in such a bad way. 

Eddie drove me over to Renter's headquarters, a large, handsome 
edifice about a mile from the centre of the town. The house had been 
taken on a six months' lease to the tune of forty thousand francs and, 
as it turned out, was occupied exactly forty-eight hours. I spent the 
night there, which seemed an odd interlude. From a world of dirt and 
discomfort I suddenly found myself plunged into a Hollywood bed- 
room, decorated with mirrors and chintz, a thick white rug and a pale 
green telephone. That evening eight of us dined at a table with candles 


glowing and silver gleaming. We had turtle soup, tournedos with sauce 
Bearnaise, fresh vegetables and a wonderful cherry pie. The world 
might be turning upside down, but it was difficult to realize it. 

The house was run by a charming, middle-aged couple a care- 
taker and his wife. The latter, plump and motherly, was also taut and 
defiant; she refused to let bad news alarm her and clung ferociously 
to the belief that France would rally in the end. "If there were more 
people like her," said Eddie, "there wouldn't be an end. But, unfortu- 
nately, there aren't." 

I spent that afternoon writing my story for the Sunday Times. 
About seven o'clock the wail of sirens hooted through the town and 
a few minutes later I heard the drone of bombers. I tried to ignore it 
and went on typing. Suddenly I heard a shriek from the drawing-room. 
I ran downstairs and found the eight- and nine-year-old children of 
the caretakers jumping up and down with joy. "Nous avons vu les 
Boches!" Then they both leaned far out of the window, pointing 
towards the sky. You could just make out a few small specks circling 
overhead. I wished I could get as enthusiastic over an air raid; in spite 
of all the talk about sparing children the terrors of bombardment, they 
seemed to be the only ones who really enjoyed it. 

I was surprised that their mother didn't order them into a shelter, 
but I learned later she was disdainful of people who took cover. The 
next morning when the German planes came over again, several bombs 
fell near us, shaking the house violently. Eddie and I went down to 
the kitchen. She gave us an enquiring look. 

"You're not afraid of the Boches^ are you?" 

"Oh, no," said Eddie weakly. "I thought perhaps you might have 
an extra cup of coffee." 

"Oh, certainly." Her face brightened. "I don't like to see people 
afraid of the Boches. They're all filthy bullies and cowards. My hus- 
band was in the last war and he said whenever they came up against 
equal numbers they turned and ran. They're all the same. There's 
nothing to be afraid of." 

"Nothing," I agreed, my heart still pounding uncertainly. Eddie 
gave me a sour look. 

We left shortly after lunch for Bordeaux. There were six of us: 
Gordon Waterfield, Harold King, Courtenay Young, Joan Slocombe 


(the pretty nineteen-year-old daughter of George Slocombe of the 
Sunday Express) , Eddie and myself. Gordon had a Ford roadster 
and Eddie a Citroen, with an R.A.F. number plate, which he had 
picked up somewhere between Brussels and Tours. They had been 
wise enough to do a good deal of shopping and it took over half an 
hour to load up the cars with blankets, sleeping-bags, cooking utensils 
and stores of food not to mention typewriters, luggage, office files, 
a camping tent and a collapsible canoe. 

Just before we started off, Courtenay Young and I hurried down to 
the Press Wireless office to send a final despatch. On the way back I 
heard someone call to me and looked around to see the little Egyptian 
with whom I had travelled to Paris. His hair was streaming round his 
face, his clothes were caked with mud, and he looked more agitated 
than ever. He had had a terrible time. He had found his house deserted, 
and his children gone; he hadn't yet discovered what had happened 
to them. He had left Paris only twenty-four hours before and had 
actually seen the Germans entering the city through the Aubervilliers 
Gate. Motor-cycle units had passed as close as two hundred yards 
from where he was standing. He said the occupation had come as a 
shock to many of the people and the scenes of despair were unbe- 
lievable. Men and women wept openly in the street. "Some of them 
went almost crazy," he gasped. "I saw one woman pull out a revolver 
and shoot her dog, then set fire to her house/' 

The Egyptian was on his way to Bordeaux. He was in such a rush 
he couldn't stop to tell me more and I never learned the story of how 
he had managed to escape from Paris. 


Chapter VI 

Did you keep faith with me? When all was well 
Yes; but I clave to you when all was not. 
And, when temptation touched your citadel, 
Your weakness won again, and you forgot 

Forgot your Self, and freedom and your friends, 
Even interest; and now our vaunted glow 
Becomes a blush, as the long story ends 
In sorry separation at Bordeaux. 




think of it now I think of stately chateaux, cool rivers, wooded 
glens, wine, sunshine and flowers. Although the main highways were 
choked with terror and misery, with the smell of petrol and the roll 
of gunwheels, the country lanes belonged to another world. We 
found housewives gossiping on the crooked village streets and peas- 
ants working in the fields as peacefully as they always had. Their 
lives seemed so detached from the turmoil around them we began 
to wonder if they even knew a war was going on. 

Certainly few seemed to know how critical things were. When we 
talked to them the majority shrugged their shoulders and said they 
had so little news it was impossible to judge the situation. Many 
had not even learned that the Germans had occupied Paris twenty- 
four hours before. (The French communiqu6 never announced the 
German entry it merely stated that French troops had withdrawn 
to both sides of the capital "according to the plans of the French 
Command, aimed at sparing Paris the devastation which defence 


would have involved/' After that Paris was not referred to again.) 
The people in the country had either not heard the communique 
or not grasped what it meant. At any rate, they showed little alarm. 
The deepest doubt we heard expressed was from an old farmer who 
leaned over a fence, pitchfork in hand, to talk to Eddie and me. He 
said he didn't like the sound of things, scratched his head and asked 
gravely: "Are we so sure we are going to win?" 

We spent that night in a field near a brook on the outskirts of a 
tiny village. We pitched our tent and got out the blankets, our food 
and cooking apparatus. We dined on pdte de foie gras, chicken galan- 
tine, sardines, pickles, onions, bread, cheese and wine. We lay on 
the grass and talked for hours about France. Suddenly Harold King 
said: "It's funny how already we discuss France in the past tense." 

"Well, there's no use fooling ourselves," said Eddie. "It is past. 
Past and finished. God, think of the Germans drinking this wine." 

The next morning we strolled down to the village, about half a 
mile away. It consisted of only a dozen houses, clustered around an 
old church; of a petrol pump, a cafe and an over-cluttered shop 
which was doing a thriving business selling everything from ribbons 
to wine. 

At eleven o'clock the church bells started pealing for High Mass, 
and mothers and children, in their best Sunday clothes and neat, 
polished shoes, began assembling in the churchyard. We went into 
the cafe where half a dozen people were gathered. We asked for 
the vin du pays and a small boy brought us a jug of Vouvray. Cer- 
tainly it was an odd and peaceful scene for a Sunday which will 
go down in history as the day when the Reynaud Government fell 
and the Republic of France entered the final phase of its collapse. 
The people around us were discussing the war; they were bewildered 
by what had happened to Paris, for they thought it was to be de- 
fended to the last. One said hopefully: "Perhaps all this is a trick to 
trap the Germans." Another, a woman with a broad face and rough 
red hands: "Oh well, Paris is not important. It is just another city." 
As Paris was as dear to most French people as their own villages 
this struck us as an extraordinary remark. We understood when we 
discovered she was a Belgian refugee from Liege. When we asked 


her opinion of King Leopold, she lifted her hands in anger and said: 

The most vivid character in the village was the cafe proprietress 
an old woman of seventy-eight. She looked as though she had stepped 
out of a Flaubert novel; she was dressed in black with a voluminous 
skirt and a small white cap on her head. She had a brown, wrinkled 
face that lighted up with amusement. She was evidently the matriarch 
of the village, for people listened to her respectfully and whenever 
she wanted anything done everyone scurried about in half a dozen 
directions. She was so excited at our arrival she insisted on serving 
us herself. She kept hovering about, murmuring: "The brave, brave 
English. Together we will drive the Boches back. Eh? Is it not so?" 
Each time she demanded an answer: when she got it, she nodded with 
immense satisfaction. She went on to say she was not depressed by 
the news of Paris. All her life she had been troubled by the Boches, 
but in the end things always came right. She could remember the 
war of 1870, for she was eight years old at the time. In the war 
of 1914 her sons had fought, and to-day her grandsons were at the 
front. "This war is the hardest," she sighed. "But since it would be 
better to be dead than live under Hitler, we must never surrender. 
Eh? Is it not so?" We nodded. "Bon! Now you brave Englishmen 
will have some more wine, won't you?" 

The brave Englishmen did. In fact the only thing that got us 
started for Bordeaux at all was that Gordon Waterfield's portable 
radio informed us the French Cabinet was meeting again that after- 
noon and would make an important announcement that night. Re- 
luctantly we left. Although Marshal Petain may have most of 
France in his pocket to-day, Fm willing to bet our little village is 
still die-hard anti-Hitler and will stay that way as long as the old 
proprietress has a breath left in her body. 

On the last lap of our journey to Bordeaux we passed a good many 
towns and villages inundated with refugees. Wherever we found 
refugees we found panic. Dr. Goebbels couldn't have found a more 
effective method of spreading alarm and despondency; but it was 
not until that very day, June sixteenth, that the French Government 
took any measure to prevent it, for the first time requesting people 
to remain where they were. 


Bordeaux was Tours all over again; cafes and hotels over-flowing, 
cars careening under household possessions; people besieging the 
Spanish Consulate for visas; more rumours of threats from the Ger- 
man Air Force; more stories of the imminence of German tank and 
motor-cycle units; more people angry, confused and dejected. We 
learned that the Cabinet was still discussing the question as to 
whether France should capitulate or carry on the war from North 
Africa. Reynaud, Mandel, Marin, Monnet and Delbos were said to 
be in favour of continuing the struggle, but the Petain-Laval group 
were pressing strongly for surrender. Laval's dark sinister face was 
very much in evidence at the Hotel Splendide restaurant; you saw 
him with a group of friends, head bent over the table, arguing and 
gesticulating vehemently. Knickerbocker went up to talk to him 
and in the course of the conversation said: "Whatever you do, don't 
surrender. If you go on fighting, I'm sure America will put her full 
weight behind you and in the end you'll win. But if you give in 
now, you're finished." 

Laval smiled. "Perhaps," he said. "But I'm not sure. You see, I 
don't think France is Germany's primary object. I think her real 
aim is Soviet Russia." This, at a moment when the German Army 
was streaming through France, when towns were being bombed 
and people were fleeing in confusion from one end of the country 
to the other. 

Laval was not the only one: a good many other Frenchmen, 
mostly Right Wing reactionaries, reasoned along the same lines. 
When I returned to England from Italy, four days after the German 
invasion had begun, I talked to a Frenchman who was a member of 
the French Economic Mission in London. Already he was pessimistic 
about France's chances of victory. "In a few weeks," he said, "France 
will be faced with the most difficult decision in her history. She 
will have the choice of either being completely annihilated by the 
Germans or making a peace that will reduce her to a third-class 
Power." It was the first time I'd heard peace mentioned; I remember 
how astonished I was. "But you wouldn't even be a third-class 
Power," I said. "You would be just a German province." "Oh no/' 
he replied, "You cannot destroy France. England yes, but not France. 
There will always of a bloc of French people on the continent, and 


one day they will rise again and regain their old power just as the 
Germans have/' 

At the time I was so alarmed by this conversation that I repeated 
it to a friend in the Foreign Office. He attached little importance 
to it, believing such sentiments were held by only a small and in- 
consequential group of chronic defeatists. But it was the same brand 
of reasoning that was gaining ground in Bordeaux that Sunday. "Cut 
your losses and drive the best bargain you can"; that was how the 
Peace Party pleaded for surrender. In a desperate effort to persuade 
the French Government to continue its resistance, whether from 
France itself, or her overseas Empire, the British Government offered 
to conclude an act of union between the two countries. A draft 
was sent to the French Government by the British Ambassador that 
fateful Sunday afternoon. This is what it said: 

At this most fateful moment in the history of the modern world, the 
Government of the United Kingdom and the French Republic make this 
declaration of indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in their com- 
mon defence of justice and freedom against subjection to a system which 
reduces mankind to a life of robots and slaves. 

The two Governments declare that France and Great Britain shall 
no longer be two, but one Franco-British Union. The Constitution of 
the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial, 
and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately 
citizenship of Great Britain. Every British subject will become a citizen 
of France. 

Both countries will share responsibility for the repair of the devasta- 
tation of war wherever it occurs in their territories, and the resources 
of both shall be equally and as one applied to that purpose. 

During the war there shall be a single War Cabinet and all the forces 
of Britain and France, whether on land, sea, or in the air, will be placed 
under its direction. It will govern from wherever it best can. The two 
Parliaments will be formally associated. 

The nations of the British Empire are already forming new armies. 
France will keep her available forces in the field, on the sea, and in the air. 

The Union appeals to the United States to fortify the economic re- 
sources of the Allies and to bring her powerful material aid to the com- 
mon cause. The Union will concentrate its whole energy against Ac 


power of the enemy, no matter where the battle may be, and thus we 
shall conquer. 

The leaders of France rejected the offer. They had too little 
faith in their cause, too little faith in the Third Republic. That night 
it was left to M. Mandel, a staunch and bitter anti-Nazi, to an- 
nounce to half a dozen journalists in a drab and dingy room at the 
Prefecture that Reynaud had resigned and that Petain was the new 
Prime Minister the peace Prime Minister. I will never forget him 
standing there, small and white, his head high and his voice firm, 
speaking the words he had fought against speaking to the end words 
that sounded the death-knell of France. As he was known to be 
unswervingly anti-capitulation, one of the French journalists asked 
him if he had made any plans to leave. "Oh no, I shall remain here." 
Then he added with an ironical smile, "I'm just beginning to know 
Bordeaux a little." (The following day Mandel was arrested as the 
leader of the "pro-revolt" Party, but at the insistence of Herriot 
and President Lebrun was soon released. He demanded a written 
apology from Marshal Petain and gossip had it that not satisfied with 
the old man's first draft he said severely: "This won't do at all. I 
will dictate a proper letter of apology," to which the Marshall ac- 
ceded, writing down the profuse and abject sentences which were 
given him.) 

What had happened to the tough spirit of France? What had 
caused this complete and utter moral collapse? Innumerable and con- 
flicting explanations have been given: I leave it to the experts. But of 
one think I am sure: that if the French people had had leaders of 
conviction and integrity, the debdcle would never have happened. 
Reynaud, a sincere and accurate prophet, lacked the strong person- 
ality necessary to grip the popular imagination. His weakness became 
apparent when he finally threw in his hand and knuckled under to 
P&ain. Would Churchill have resigned? If the leaders had not lost 
faith in their cause, the people would not have lost faith in their 
leaders. German tanks might have penetrated the country's defences, 
but Paris would have been defended street by street; towns might have 
been bombed but there would have been no flow of hysterical refugees 
to spread despair like a contagious disease; the Government might 


have been forced abroad, but the French Fleet would be fighting at 
England's side now. 

Instead, the people of France were betrayed and deserted. News 
was denied them and directions withheld from them. I think Gordon 
Waterfield, in his book What Happened to France, has summed it up 
in the following paragraph: 

It can be shown, I consider, that those who led France in her hour 
of trial bear nine-tenths of the responsibility . . . The Government kept 
on repeating that they would hold out to the last. "Paris," they said, "is 
in a state of defence," and a few days later they declared it an open 
town. "We will fight from North Africa if necessary," they proclaimed, 
and a short time afterwards they asked for the German terms. "We will 
not," they said, "accept a dishonourable armistice," and they gave Hitler 
a blank cheque. They were not only unfit to lead, but they deceived the 
people. It is the prosecutors of the Riom trial who should be in the dock. 

We left for England on the following day on a British cargo boat. 
We motored to Le Verdon, a port on the mouth of the Gironde, about 
sixty miles from Bordeaux, where our ship was anchored in the har- 
bour. There was a last-minute scramble among the journalists to get 
rid of their francs: everyone hurried down to the shops to buy what- 
ever they could, most of them coming back with bottles of perfume to 
take home to their girl friends. 

The change of Government was announced briefly in the morning 
papers, but the average French person hadn't yet grasped what it 
meant. It wasn't until midday that Petain broadcast that France was 
asking the Germans for an armistice. Eddie Ward, Knickerbocker, Ed 
Angly and I were sitting at a small quayside cafe at the Pointe de 
Grave, a mile or so from Le Verdon. It was a wonderful day. Before 
us a hundred ships lay at anchor in the harbour: the white sand 
glistened in the sunshine, and the tall pine trees looked like splendid 
sentinels. Our waitress, a plump, smiling girl, filled up our wineglasses 
and took our order. A radio was turned on in the kitchen. Suddenly 
she heard Petain's voice saying: "It is with a heavy heart I say we must 
cease the fight. I have applied to our opponent to ask him if he is ready 
to sign with us, as between soldiers after the fight and in honour, a 


means to put an end to hostilities . . ." She came back in the room 
with tears streaming down her face, gasping: "We can't live under 
the Boches. We can't. It is not possible." Ed Angly tried to com- 
fort her, but for the rest of the meal she served us red-eyed and 

The tender didn't appear until four that afternoon. At the last 
moment someone announced that no one was allowed more than one 
piece of luggage; there was a frantic commotion while people tried 
to decide what was most important. When we finally left the quay 
was littered with discarded hampers, bags and boxes not to mention 
a long string of motor-cars that had to be abandoned: among them 
were Tom Healy's valiant Chrysler, Gordon's Ford and Eddie's 

We lay in the harbour for over twenty-four hours. Every hour 
tenders steamed out toward us bringing more passengers until, finally, 
our small nine-thousand-ton cargo ship, the s.s. Madura, which nor- 
mally carried a hundred and eighty passengers, was packed with over 
sixteen hundred people the normal complement of the Queen Mary. 
There were bankers, officials, cabinet ministers, wives, children, sol- 
diers, nurses, business men, invalid ladies, retired colonels, maiden 
aunts, and fifty or sixty journalists. Although most of the passengers 
were English, there were several hundred French people: many of 
them climbed on board weeping convulsively at the parting from 
their relatives and the uncertainty as to whether they would ever see 
their native land again. There in the harbour, with the sun streaming 
down and the peaceful outline of the French coast in the distance, 
it was hard to realize that France had come to an end. 

Most people, however, had little time to meditate as to what it 
meant, for the immediate concern was to find a place to sleep: all the 
berths, tables and deck chairs had long since been snatched up. Every- 
one began hurriedly staking out claims on the decks and in the passage- 
ways. Soon it was so crowded there wasn't an inch of available space. 
Mr. Comert, the French Foreign Press Chief, made himself a bed on 
top of the ping-pong table. On the lower decks there was a detach- 
ment of Marines to keep order among the lascar crew (who were apt 
to panic in the event of danger); a group of marine artillery being 


transferred from Africa; thirty or forty nurses and ambulance drivers; 
and a number of wounded British soldiers. 

The ship was so overcrowded that if it had been hit few would 
have survived. It was difficult to decide where to sleep, for although it 
was preferable below in case of bombs, it was wiser above in case of 
torpedoes. Eddie, Gordon, Waterfield and I flipped a coin and put our 
blankets down on the top deck; soon afterwards we doubted the 
shrewdness of our move, for a German bomber dived out of the clouds 
and made a hit-and-run attempt at the harbour. Our ship was armed 
and the guns in the stern burst into a loud rattle. We saw bombs fall 
in the distance and watched the water shoot up like a geyser. Then 
three French fighters roared overhead and we heard later that the 
German had been brought down. I don't know whether the events of 
the past few days had dulled everyone's sensibilities, but while all this 
was going on people were so indifferent that some of them actually 
sat in their deck chairs reading novels as calmly as though they were 
on a South Sea cruise. Later that night, while we were still at anchor, 
we had another raid warning but heard no bombs, and a few minutes 
later the "all clear" sounded. The next day the German radio claimed 
we had been sunk. 

We pulled out from Le Veron on the afternoon of June eighteenth. 
We travelled on a parallel course only a few hundred yards from 
another refugee cargo ship and were escorted by a destroyer, a small 
but comforting speck in the distance. The Captain called for volun- 
teers to stand lookout watches for submarines and most of the jour- 
nalists signed up. Each stood watch for an hour at a time, but the only 
excitement any of them had was when Bill Stoneman of the Chicago 
Daily News spied a small fleet of Spanish fishing boats. Other than 
that all was quiet and the Captain told us the only occasion any shoot- 
ing had been done was when they made a mistake and blew a whale 
to pieces off the West Coast of Africa. 

The original passengers of our ship had had a tiring journey, to say 
the least. They were lost in the flow of refugees none of us dis- 
covered which they were but we were told they had boarded the 
vessel in East Africa for a two weeks 9 trip to England and had now 
been on it nearly two months. When they reached Suez, the Mediter- 
ranean was suddenly closed to British shipping and they were forced 


to go all the way back to Cape Town. They remained in port a week 
while the ship was "degaussed" against magnetic mines, then started 
once more on their journey. As they neared the English Channel they 
received an S O S to put in at Bordeaux and take off the refugees. 

Although the Captain had been able to take on no extra rations since 
Cape Town, the chef managed to provide all sixteen hundred passen- 
gers with two meals a day; for breakfast a cup of tea and a slice of 
bread, and for dinner a piece of meat, some rice and a potato. The 
native crew had a more substantial ration and were only too pleased 
to share some of it with Knickerbocker and Ed Angly in exchange for 
a handsome shower of silver. We had a little food left over from our 
Tours-Bordeaux trip none of it very practical but plenty of caviare 
and pdte de foie gras which we devoured hungrily for breakfast. 

During the thirty-six hour journey news was picked up spasmodi- 
cally over the radio, typed out by one of the journalists, and pinned to 
the billboard. All kinds of rumours swept the ship concerning the Ger- 
man demands and the French replies. But the one question that was 
on everybody's lips was the fate of the French Navy. The French 
passengers were vehement about this. "They must never surrender it 
to the Germans; if they cannot turn it over to Great Britain, they 
must scuttle it first." 

But whatever happened, one thing was sure: England was fighting 
on. On the same afternoon that our ship was sailing out of the harbour 
of Le Verdon, and the coast of France was fading away in the dis- 
tance, Mr. Churchill was saying in the House of Commons: 

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect 
that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the 
survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, 
and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole 
fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hider 
knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we 
can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world 
may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the 
whole world, including the United States, including all that we have 
known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made 
more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted 
science. Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear our- 


selves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thou- 
sand years, men will say: "This was their finest hour." 

Yes, England was fighting on and the people of England were 
already embarking on "their finest hour" with that mild and unshak- 
able imperturbability so characteristic of them. When we disembarked 
at Falmouth, a group of motherly, middle-aged women brought us 
lemonade and sandwiches, fussing over us, saying what a hard time 
we must have had. "Now you're safely back in England," said one. 
"Everything will be all right." 

Yes, England was another world. A second woman volunteer 
handed me an emigration card, stamped "Refugee." 

I protested: "I'm not a refugee. I'm an American journalist." 

"Everyone," she said firmly, "who is not English, is a refugee." 

I nodded. I signed the card. I asked her what she thought of things. 

"Improving, on the whole. At least, there's no one left to let us 

She said it not sarcastically, or bitterly, or reproachfully; but in a 
bright, rather pleased tone of voice. 

Thank God for that maddening English insularity, I thought. 

Part Nine 



Chapter I 

The English will be regarded as the most valuable allies in the world 
so long as we may expect from their leaders and from the broad masses 
of the people that ruthlessness and toughness which are determined to 
carry through to a victorious end any fight which they have once begun 
without regard for time or sacrifices. . . . 

ADOLF HITLER: Mein Kampf. 



highways. Workmen stripped down the road-signs. Villagers pa- 
trolled the country lanes. Volunteers flooded the Home Guard, the 
fire-fighting squads, the ambulance services. Eyes turned skywards as 
the nation waited for the German air force to strike with the full fury 
of its might. England was fighting on. 

Eight sovereign States of Europe, disarmed, humbled and broken, 
lay beneath the grip of Germany; more were her vassals. Ports and 
aerodromes from Stavanger to Brest were in the hands of the Nazi Air 
Force. England, the last outpost of European civilization, was alone. 
Her Navy was engaged in the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Medi- 
terranean, and there was the threat of new aggression in the Far East. 
Her guns, tanks and lorries lay scattered through Flanders and on the 
shores of Dunkirk. Her air fleet was only a third the size of Germany's. 
Would she be forced to bargain for peace? Her answer had already 
been given in the words of Winston Churchill: 

We shall go on to the end . . . We shall defend our Island, whatever 
the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the land- 
ing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight 
in the hills. We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a 



moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and 
starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the 
British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time 
the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue 
and the liberation of the old. 

Ever since I was a child I had admired England. The first books I 
remember reading were illustrated story books of the Knights of the 
Round Table, of Alfred the Great, Richard the Lionhearted, of Robin 
Hood and Drake. England seemed to me a wonderful land where all 
men were very brave and wore splendid and beautiful clothes. My 
admiration increased rather than diminished with time, and during the 
past few years it had sharpened with a deeper understanding of what 
her long and persistent struggle for freedom had meant; for the 
security she had brought to the seas; for the law and justice she had 
spread to the dark corners of the earth; for the reasoning and com- 
passionate judgment she had given to her people. 

But I never admired her more than I did during those perilous days 
of June and July, For the first time I understood what the maxim 
meant: "England never knows when she's beaten." Not once did I 
hear anyone talk of surrender. On the contrary, in the words of Mrs. 
Sullivan: "After all the trouble 'Itler's given us, the least we can do 

now is to win." 

Although the British leaders were well aware how precarious the 
situation was they never faltered. There was no "Peace Party" to 
contend with in England. And as for the ordinary people, they not 
only followed but actually took heart from the new situation. All the 
way back from France I had wondered what the reaction would be. 
I was prepared for courage, but to find that the general public actually 
appeared to be invigorated by the collapse of their last ally was so sur- 
prising that it could only be described as "typically English." "Now/* 
they said, "we're all together again." 

Psychologically, the explanation was partly due to the fact that 
Englishmen have always regarded foreigners as strange and unpredict- 
able, and took comfort in the knowledge that their own people were 
bound to prove more reliable; partly to the fact that the women felt 
a curious sense of relief that their sons and husbands were no longer 
going to fight on the Continent. Through the centuries British soldiers 
had left their bones on foreign soil. They had been buried in the 


Crimea, in Africa, in India in almost every country in Europe but 
now the people of England were faced with the novel prospect of 
waging war in their own land. 

I was more than impressed. I was flabbergasted. I not only under- 
stood the maxim "England never knows when she's beaten"; I under- 
stood why England never had been beaten. On June twenty-ninth I 
broadcast over the B.B.C. to the United States: 

Reports current in America that England will be forced to negotiate 
a compromise which means surrenderare unfounded and untrue. 
Anyone who knows England knows just how untrue. The Anglo-Saxon 
character is tough. Englishmen are proud of being Englishmen. They 
have been the most powerful race in Europe for over three hundred 
years, and they believe in themselves with passionate conviction. 
Throughout English history the Guards regiments have fought to the 
death. When an Englishman says: "It is better to be dead than live under 
Hitler," heed his words. He means it. 

The ordinary English person would have been amazed that any- 
one was speculating about Britain's determination or, for that mat- 
ter, Britain's chances of survival. I felt slightly embarrassed at even 
handing in my script to the B.B.C. Although the people knew they 
would be bombed, blockaded and besieged, their insularity, with its 
roots in nearly a thousand years of independence, was serving them in 
good stead; they were positive their island could not be invaded. They 
knew that England had once had few and very small ships and yet had 
beaten the Armada of Spain; they knew that Napoleon with all his 
armies and all his power had never succeeded in crossing the Channel. 
They had an unshakable faith in the Navy and no gibe pleased them 
more than the fact that Hitler was a landsman and knew nothing of 
the sea. 

It was, therefore, not surprising that Hitler's peace offer of July 19 
fell on deaf ears: "I can see no reason why this war must go on. I am 
grieved to think of the sacrifices it will claim . . . Mr. Churchill 
ought, perhaps, for once to believe me when I prophesy that a great 
Empire will be destroyed an Empire which it was never my inten- 
tion to destroy or even to harm. I do, however, realize that this struggle 
if it continues can end only with the complete annihilation of one or 
the other of the two adversaries. Mr. Churchill may believe that this 
will be Germany, I know it will be Britain." 


England's answer was: "Oh yeah?" 

Although the situation was far more threatening than in the days of 
Napoleon, it offered such an extraordinary parallel that I rummaged 
through my books for a volume of Paul Frischauer's, entitled Eng- 
land's Years of Danger. It was a compilation of letters and documents 
during the long period of the Napoleonic invasion threat. I read it 
again, fascinated; here was history repeating itself almost event for 
event. Napoleon who, like Hitler, had the whole continent under his 
heel, also like Hitler, made offers of peace. They, too, were rejected. 
Although England was fighting alone, her Navy struck out daringly in 
an effort to blockade the ports under his control. Napoleon, in pained 
surprise that the lone Island should defy him, wrote in a letter to 
Admiral Decres in June 1805 (exactly a hundred and thirty-five years 
before) : 

When England realizes the seriousness of the game she is playing she 
will be forced to give up the blockade of Brest. I really do not know 
what preventive measures she can take to protect herself from the terrible 
danger that hangs over her. How foolish is a nation that has no army 
and no fortifications, and yet risks invasion by a force of one hundred 
thousand picked men. That is the masterpiece of our flotilla. It costs 
money; but we need only six hours to be masters of the sea and Eng- 
land ceases to exist. 

A few months later Napoleon ordered Admiral Villeneuve, who 
was at Cadiz, to sail immediately for Brest and clear the channel for 
a crossing of his vast flotilla of flat-bottomed boats in which army, 
artillery and horses were already established. His order to the latter 
was as follows: 

Boulogne 22nd August, i8of. 

Admiral I hope you have now arrived at Brest. Sail away. Do not 
lose a minute, but sail with the squadrons into the English Channel. Eng- 
land is ours. We are ready. Everything is on board. Only get there inside 
twenty-four hours, and the whole thing is accomplished. 

The poor old Admiral, however, could not leave the harbour of 
Cadiz because the English force waiting outside was too strong. Once 
again the invasion was postponed. And how did the English react to 
this? Confident in the power of their Fleet and the Home Guard of 
the day, they treated the attempts as a joke. Cartoons of Napoleon 


(of a "You've missed the bus" category) appeared in the current 
newspapers. Frischauer reprints the following burlesque from a 
London periodical. It was written in the form of a Proclamation to 
be drawn up after Napoleon's victorious entry into London. The 
French Revolutionary calendar was used: 

nth Thermidor. 


Inhabitants of London, be tranquil! The Hero, the Pacificator, is come 
among you. His moderation and his mercy are too well known to you. He 
delights in restoring peace and liberty to all mankind. 

No molestation shall be offered to the measures which the French 
soldiers shall be required to execute. 

To the French Soldiers! 

Soldiers! Bonaparte has led you to the shores and the Capital of this 
proud Island. London, the second Carthage, is given up to pillage for 

three days. 


1 2th, 1 3th, i4th Thermidor. 

London pillaged! The doors of private houses forced. Bands of drunken 
soldiers dragging wives and daughters from the arms of husbands and 
fathers. Flames seem in a hundred different places. Churches broken 
open, and the Church plate plundered the pews and altars converted 
into stabling, four Bishops murdered. 

1 5th Thermidor. 

The houses of the principal nobility and gentry appropriated to the 
use of French Generals. 

1 6th Thermidor. 

Insurrections in different parts of the capital. Cannons planted at all 
principal avenues. Lords Nelson, St. Vincent, and Duncan, Messrs. Ad- 
dington, Pitt, Sheridan, Grey, and twenty Peers and Commons, sentenced 
to be shot. Sentence immediately carried out in Hyde Park. 

The Island ordered to be divided into departments. The name of 
London changed into Bonapart-opolis and the appellation of the 
country to be altered to that of La France Insulaire. 

Hitler-opolis, that was an idea that wasn't coming off either. Once 
again people prepared for invasion. They did it with a certain amount 
of humour mingled with their determination, for the prospect of men 


dressed as bishops and curates dropping from the skies with sub- 
machine guns struck everyone as extremely comic; however, no one 
was taking any chances. I motored down to the coast where the village 
people were blocking the roads with old carts and automobiles; where 
the farmers were sowing their fields with obstacles against troop car- 
riers; where Home Guard volunteers were prowling through the 
country roads on the look-out for parachutists. Anne O'Neill, Mar- 
garet Douglas-Home, and I spent a week-end with friends who lived 
near the coast. One night we were driving along an isolated lane when 
two men sprang out of the bushes, waving a lantern and shouting at 
us to stop. They poked their guns in the window, flashed their lights 
in our faces and asked us for names and destination. After a certain 
amount of questioning, one of them said: "We might as well let them 
go. They don't look like parachutists." 

"Well," said the other sceptically. "You can't be too careful. From 
what I'm told they like to come down in skirts." 

We made a hurried exit before their doubts deepened. 

The country people were not the only ones preparing for emer- 
gency. In every town and city thousands volunteered for the Home 
Guard. At Osterley Park, Tom Wintringham, backed by Edward 
Hulton of Picture Post, organized classes to train the men in guerrilla 
tactics. Asturian miners who had taken part in the Spanish war in- 
structed dignified city clerks and brokers how to crawl through the 
grass on their stomachs, how to hurl grenades and "Molotov Cock- 
tails," how to stab, strangle and shoot. I drove out there one day with 
Eddie Ward. One mild little man, a floor walker in a department store, 
suddenly interrupted the instructor, a retired British Army officer: 

"Pardon me, sir, perhaps you can tell me the quickest and most 
inexpensive way to kill a large batch of prisoners." 

The instructor was taken aback. "Here in England we don't kill 

The little man persisted. "There might be an emergency. It might 
be awkward looking after them you know, with more pressing 
things at hand." 

The instructor, still looking askance, acidly recommended the 
bayonet, and the little man nodded with immense satisfaction. 

There was no doubt about it England was becoming "war- 



Chapter II 



along the coast from Dover to Southampton. An air fight had been 
taking place above our heads for over an hour. Although we could 
hear the engines, the planes were so high and the sun was so bright we 
could catch only occasional glimpses of the tiny silver wings, like the 
quick darting flash of minnows in a clear blue stream. It was still going 
on when we drove through the quiet town of Hastings the town 
where the great battle of 1066 had been fought when the Norman 
invaders overran England. We thought it would be interesting to visit 
the battlefield. We saw three men sitting on a fence, their eyes strained 
towards the sky, and stopped to ask the way. 

"The battle of 1066?" one of them repeated. "Never heard of it." 

"Look at 'er!" said the second excitedly. "She's on his tail now 
Ooh! Look at "em go." 

It was quite obvious no one was interested in the Battle of Hastings, 
and as we drove on Knick said meditatively: "Do you suppose one 
day, a thousand years from now, some bright young thing will write 
a book called 1940 And All That?" 

It was a startling thought, but one thing was certain: "All That" 
would take a good deal of describing. Ever since the eighth of August 
Germany's great air armada had been grappling with the fighters of 
the Royal Air Force in a titanic effort to smash British resistance; then 
to lay waste to the Island and seal its doom with invasion. The quiet 
town of Dover, only twenty miles from the nearest German base, 
had suddenly become the world's news centre for the fierce and 
terrible battles taking place above the coast. 

Hundreds of journalists and camera men flowed through the lobby 


of the Grand Hotel a provincial hotel on the water-front which had 
formerly done most of its trade from special-rate holiday tourists 
en route for a week-end in France. I had seen the same journalists in 
hotels in Prague, Berlin, Warsaw, Helsinki and Paris, but this time it 
was different; this was the last stop. After this, there would be no 
other hotels to move on to. 

Otherwise there was the same atmosphere journalists always seem 
to bring with them: excitement, confusion, activity. Although many 
people had been evacuated from the town, and the beach was a long 
empty sweep, protected by wire barricade to keep the pedestrians 
away, the streets were crowded with soldiers, sailors, balloon barrage 
and A.R.P. workers. The roller-skating pavilion in the small square 
next to the hotel was crowded with customers, the music from the 
gramophone blaring out gaily along the sea-front just as it did in 

When the alarms sounded a red flag fluttered from Dover Castle on 
a hill high above the sea. You saw shop-owners bolting their doors, 
pedestrians running for cover, air-raid wardens taking their positions 
along the streets the same scenes you had seen so often only this time 
slightly strange because it was England. Then you heard the far-away 
noise of engines, increasing until the drone was a mighty roar like the 
thunder of a waterfall, and the battle was on. 

Some of us used to climb to the top of Shakespeare Cliff, about a 
mile from the town, and watch from there. The setting was majestic. 
In front of you stretched the blue water of the Channel and in the dis- 
tance you could distinguish the hazy outline of the coast of France. 
Far below were the village houses glistening in the sun and the small 
boats and trawlers lying at anchor in the harbour; on the hill on the 
other side, the mighty turrets of the castle jutting into the sky; and, 
above all this, twenty or thirty huge grey balloons floating in the blue, 
flapping a little like whales gasping for breath. 

You lay in the tall grass with the wind blowing gently across you 
and watched the hundreds of silver planes swarming through the 
heavens like clouds of gnats. All around you, anti-aircraft guns were 
shuddering and coughing, stabbing the sky with small white bursts. 
You could see the flash of wings and the long white plumes from the 
exhausts; you could hear the whine of engines and the rattle of 


machine-gun bullets. You knew the fate of civilization was being 
decided fifteen thousand feet above your head in a world of sun, wind 
and sky. You knew it, but even so it was hard to take it in. 

Sometimes the planes came lower, twisting, turning, darting and 
diving with a moaning noise that made your stomach drop; sometimes 
you saw them falling earthwards, a mass of flames, leaving as their last 
testament a long black smudge against the sky. Many of them fell into 
the sea and far below you could see the "crash" boats racing out to the 
middle of the Channel to pick up the survivors. Often, when the 
German planes came down, the gunners on the cliffs shouted and 
cheered. No one had more respect for the fighter pilots than they. 
"By God," said one of them: "you have to see those boys to believe 
how tough they are! " 

I had seen them. Only a few weeks before Knickerbocker and I 
had driven down to the aerodrome where the 60 1 Squadron was 
stationed. We stood on the field and watched the Hurricanes shoot- 
ing off the ground like bullets, until a moment later they were only 
tiny specks in the distance. They had been sent up to intercept a group 
of German bombers approaching the coast near Brighton, but this 
particular occasion turned out to be a false alarm for the raiders turned 
back and soon the Hurricanes were sweeping on to the field again. 

As they were circling down for a landing, an airman who was con- 
ducting us around a tall, dark, nineteen-year-old boy asked me if 
I'd like to talk to one of the pilots in the air. He walked over to a plane 
near the hangar, connected the radio and told me to ask for X No. i. 


"Just say X No. i, you're making a lousy landing. Repeat it twice 
very distinctly." 

Dutifully I did as I was told, then switched over for the reply. It 
came: "You tell the controller to shut his Goddam face." 

My instructor guffawed with laughter. When X No. i came strid- 
ing across the field, he greeted him warmly, and said: "You must meet 
this lady. You were just talking to her over the radio." 

"Oh, I say," mumbled X No. i. "I had no idea . . . I do hope . . .* 

He was a painfully shy young man and by this time his face was 
crimson. He was wearing the D.F.C. and I was told he had shot down 
eleven planes, but I didn't have an opportunity to learn any further 


details, for he promptly vanished and we didn't see him again for the 
rest of the afternoon. 

The squadron was divided into three shifts: "Readiness," which 
could be in the air within a few seconds; "Advanced available" which 
had a ten-minute leeway; and "Available" within call of an hour or 
two. The "readiness" pilots were billeted in small huts on the edge of 
the field and the Commanding Officer took us around and introduced 
us to a number of them. They had bright, keen faces and were wearing 
decorations they had won at the time of Dunkirk. They were ex- 
tremely modest about their achievements, and if you had told them 
how wonderful you thought they were they would have been deeply 
embarrassed. In fact, when Winston Churchill made his speech, say- 
ing: "Never in the field of human conflict have so many owed so 
much to so few," one of them was reported to have commented awk- 
wardly: "I think he must be referring to our mess bills." 

Among the group were two Poles, newcomers to the squadron, who 
had yet to experience their first combat. As they knew only a few 
words of English, Knickerbocker addressed them in German, which 
they spoke fluently. "If you don't mind," said one, in a tone of gentle 
reproach, "we prefer to talk English." Although the conversation was 
almost unintelligible, I remembered the Polish pilots I'd seen in Rou- 
mania, begging for a chance to have another go at the Germans, and 
I didn't have to be told what their feelings were. 

Our day ended with tea in a garden at the back of an old farmhouse 
on the edge of the field. The farmer, frightened at living so near the 
aerodrome, had moved away and a group of pilots had taken over the 
house. They were as pleased about it as a lot of children. They made 
a special effort over tea, hurrying in and out of the kitchen to see if 
things were being done properly; bringing us platters of cakes and 
sandwiches and apologizing profusely because we had come down 
to see them on such a slack day. They had been up only once, whereas 
they usually went into battle four or five times! I couldn't get over 
how young they were little boys with blond hair and pink cheeks 
who looked as though they ought to be in school I sat staring at 
them as though they were slightly unreal: these were the men who 
were saving England. Each time they went up into the air it was a 
fight to the finish; either they died or the enemy. Just then one of the 


pilots interrupted my thoughts: 'Tou should visit one of our bomber 
squadrons one day." And here his tone grew into one of awe: "Now, 
those boys are really tough." 
For once I couldn't think of any comment to make. 

A week or so later Knick and I took his advice and visited a bomber 
station in Lincolnshire. Although that was nearly a year ago when 
England was still greatly outnumbered in the air, British bombers 
were already striking at Germany five times as vigorously as the Ger- 
mans were hitting back. On August i5th official figures estimated 
that the Royal Air Force had dropped more than thirty thousand 
bombs on Germany to the latter's seven thousand on England. Since 
the invasion of Holland, three-and-a-half months before, there had 
been only two nights during which enemy targets had not been 

Knick and I stood on the aerodrome watching six gigantic heavily- 
loaded bombers taking off in the fading light for the long trip they 
had come to know so well. The picture was dramatic enough: the 
engines warming up, the signal lights flashing across the field, and the 
sudden loud roar as plane after plane swept down the runway and 
disappeared into the uncertain light. Soon the ground radio operator 
was talking to the pilots to test the wireless apparatus: "Can you hear 
me? Can you hear me?" And from somewhere in the darkness, miles 
away, came the reply: "Okay! Okay!" 

TTie bombers were headed for oil refineries in the Ruhr. Each plane 
carried a crew of six: two pilots, two gunners, a navigator, and a 
wireless operator who was also a trained gunner. An hour or two 
before the flight was scheduled the "briefing" took place. The Wing 
Commander called in his pilots and gave them their objectives; 
primary objectives, secondary objectives, and, finally, strict instruc- 
tions to bring their bombs back home with them if they failed to 
locate their targets. 

"Of course," said the Wing Commander, "if any of you happen to 
fly over the Skipol aerodrome (Amsterdam) and you still have your 
bombs with you . . ." Everyone laughed. The Skipol was an old 
favourite. For the next ten or fifteen minutes the pilots asked ques- 


dons and checked up positions on their maps. They were a tough, 
keen, good-natured bunch of men. This particular squadron had aver- 
aged over a hundred trips a month to Germany during the past five 

As they stood, their heads bent over their maps plotting out their 
objectives, I was reminded of a story someone had told me about the 
time Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Air Minister, had visited a bomber 
squadron during a "briefing." Sir Archibald was anxious to say a few 
words to the pilots, so the Commanding Officer led him into the room 
where, he explained, the men were studying their instructions. He 
found the pilots bending over a table, roaring with laughter. In the 
centre was a huge package. When you unwrapped the outer layer 
there was another beneath it. When you unwrapped that there was 
still another. In the last package was a dead cat. The men had taken 
great pains to do it up to look like a strange and formidable bomb. 
Inside they had scribbled all sorts of ribald jokes and were planning 
to drop it in Berlin "with love and kisses from the Air Force" hoping 
of course that some serious-minded German would rush it to a labora- 
tory for a thorough scientific inspection. 

Knick and I waited at the aerodrome until the small hours of the 
morning for our bombers to return. Sitting there, hour after hour, 
wondering if they would all get back, I began to understand the strain 
of the long and gruelling trips that had come to be such a matter of 
routine. I thought of them flying through fog and wind, over miles of 
sea, and wondered how human endurance stood up to it night after 
night. The silence of the Operations Room seemed to add to the 
drama. Several men were bending over enormous maps charting speeds 
and positions: the Wing Commander was working at his desk; the 
wireless operator was listening for messages. The only noise was the 
hiss of the tea-kettle which an orderly had set up on an improvised 

The pilots were instructed not to communicate with their stations 
until they were on the homeward lap lest the Germans discover their 
positions. About two o'clock in the morning there was a message from 
the fust plane; then one by one the signals came in until they were all 
chalked up on the board. About half an hour later the drone of an 
engine penetrated through the blackness. We ran outside and saw 


the air-field lights flash. The plane circled for several minutes and 
finally came down in a perfect landing. 

Five of the bombers arrived within three-quarters of an hour of 
each other but the sixth was missing. The Wing Commander paced 
up and down anxiously for the boy's petrol supply was limited. One 
hour slipped away, then two and then three. It seemed unlikely that 
he would ever get back now, but suddenly Headquarters reported that 
a bomber was not far off the English coast, and about half an hour 
later we heard the familiar drone of the Wellington engine. 

The pilot came into the Operations Room pulling off his helmet 
and unbuttoning his fur-lined leather jacket. He was red-cheeked 
and embarrassed. He explained that he had overshot his target and 
then got lost. Instead of reaching the coast of England he had sud- 
denly discovered he was flying over Holland. His petrol supply had 
become so low he had been forced to unload his bombs in the sea and 
had just squeezed home with a quarter of a gallon to spare. The Com- 
mander asked him if his navigator had been at fault, but the boy shook 
his head emphatically: "Oh no, sir, I must assume full responsibility/' 

He went off still mumbling apologetically and the Commander said 
to us: "I think he's covering up for his navigator. He's one of my best 
pilots and we've had trouble with the navigator before. But try and 
make him admit it! " 

As each of the crews came in from their flight they were interro- 
gated by an Intelligence Officer whose job it was to establish exactly 
what results had been obtained and what observations been made. 
Except for one pilot, forced to turn back because his rear gun had 
gone out of action, all had bombed their primary target. 

They reported heavy anti-aircraft fire. One of the bombers had 
been struck several times by shells; a wing was torn and the right 
petrol tank punctured with holes. The pilot was a gay young man, 
with a large moustache which had won him the name of "Handle-Bar 
Hank." He had made over thirty trips to Germany and inspected the 
damage with the nonchalance of an old-timer. He said he thought he 
had heard a bit of noise, but he wasn't quite sure. ~" 

When all the questioning was over we wer 
an enormous breakfast of bacon and eggs an^ 
was in such high spirits it was difficult to rca 


from an exhausting flight over enemy territory. One of the pilots who 
had made his first trip only a few days before, told me between mouth- 
f uls of toast that what surprised him the most was the show the Jerries 
put on for them. He said there were so many bursts from anti-aircraft 
guns it was almost like Empire Day. "When I realized they were 
going to all that trouble just for us, I felt as important as Hell" he 
Now, that was an angle that hadn't struck me before. 

The Bomber and Fighter Commands were not the only Air Force 
groups striking at the enemy. Every morning at dawn the Coastal 
Command's heavily-armed Sunderland flying-boats slipped out of their 
quiet harbours and roared into the mists of the Atlantic. Their job 
was to help the Navy protect the great and vital sea routes of the 
British Isles. Sometimes their day's run was only hours of lonely patrol; 
sometimes it ranged anywhere from signalling the position of enemy 
ship and attacking submarines to rescuing U-boat victims, protecting 
incoming vessels and engaging enemy planes in combat. 

One week-end I visited a station from which an Australian squadron 
was operating. During the previous six months, this particular squad- 
ron had established the startling record of flying as far as the moon 
and half-way back again. I asked one of the officers if there was any 
chance of my going out on a flight with them and by a lucky slip-up 
somewhere (which caused the Air Ministry no end of indignation) 
I was signed on as an extra pilot and taken out on a thirteen-hour 
patrol of nearly seventeen hundred miles. 

There were two officers a pilot and an engineer and a crew of 
seven. The officers were tough, experienced men with a long record 
of flying behind them; they seemed greatly amused at the bewildered 
looks the crew exchanged when I stepped aboard. "I only hope you 
won't be bored," one of them said anxiously. "A ship was torpedoed 
off the coast of Ireland a few hours ago and Jim (one of the other 
pilots) has gone off to pick up the survivors, so maybe we'll run into 
some excitement, too." 

We left at six o'clock in the morning and flew at a speed of about 
a hundred and fifty miles an hour. Soon we were far out at sea with 


nothing but a solid blue stretch above and below and the sun sparkling 
on the waves. Everyone was very busy. The bomb-racks were loaded 
and the gunners took their positions, scanning the brilliant horizon for 
enemy submarines. The engineer sat at the dual controls with the pilot; 
behind them the chief mechanic was sitting at his desk checking engine 
temperatures and pressures, the navigator was bending over his maps 
calculating speed and position, and the wireless operator listening for 

Our ship was two-decked and built entirely of metal It carried 
petrol for two thousand miles and was armed with guns bow and stern, 
port and starboard. (The pilot said they spit fire from so many angles 
the Germans had dubbed them the Fliegende Stachelschwein the 
flying porcupines.) It was also equipped with cameras for recon- 
naissance work, parachute flares for night landings, a collapsible rubber 
boat which expanded when it touched the water, and a cage of carrier 
pigeons. One of the gunners told me it had been so quiet lately the 
pigeons had been driven to laying eggs out of sheer boredom. But the 
most indispensable contrivance on the ship was an automatic pilot 
known as "George." George was an invention for long-distance fly- 
ing; he kept the boat on its course so perfectly the pilot didn't have 
to use controls for hours at a time. 

We hadn't been in the air long before the wireless operator inter- 
cepted a message from the flying-boat which had set out to pick up 
the survivors of the torpedoed ship reporting two enemy aircraft. 
They evidently weren't anxious for combat however, for a few 
minutes later we picked up a second message saying "Enemy out of 
sight." During the next four hours the only object we saw was one 
small trawler, a Spanish fishing boat. Hundreds of sea-gulls were fol- 
lowing in its wake according to the pilot, the one indisputable way 
you could tell whether or not it was "on the level." 

At ten-thirty we had breakfast: bacon and eggs, fruit, coffee, toast 
and jam. The front gunner, also an expert mechanic, had the triple 
r61e of cook. "You can tell how busy he's been," said the pilot, "by 
how strongly the potatoes taste of petrol." He was a good-natured< 
wise-cracking little man, proud of the fact that he'd learned to cook 
in the Australian bush. He said it was pretty difficult to feed ten 
people from such a small galley but on the other hand it wasn't sup- 


posed to be the Ritz. I asked him how he liked patrolling the Atlantic 
and he told me he'd like it better after he'd had "a smack at Jerry." 
He said he thought our flying-boat had a jinx, for it was the only one 
in the squadron which hadn't yet gone into action. 

Shortly after lunch I thought we were going to have some excite- 
ment. The engineer was at the controls and the pilot and I were just 
finishing our tea when the ship suddenly swung off its course. The 
pilot jumped up and went to the window. We were banking steeply 
and far below there was a long patch of oil on the water. He muttered 
"submarine" and scrambled up the ladder to the cockpit. 

A second later a noise that sounded like an old-fashioned motor 
horn resounded through the boat the signal to man all guns. From 
the galley there was the sudden clatter of pots and pans, and the cook 
made a dash for the forward gun. We were turning slowly like a 
giant bird circling down to swoop on its prey. Suddenly it was all 
over. The all-clear sounded, the boat gained altitude and straightened 
out on its course. The cook came back to his dishes looking like a dis- 
appointed child. "Just some old wreckage," he grumbled. "Thought 
we were going to unload a few that time." He wasn't the only one 
who was disappointed. The chief mechanic shook his head gloomily. 
"The trouble is, it's such a clear day the Jerries can see us for forty 
miles. It's always lousy fishing, this weather." 

The engineer apologized for the lack of excitement but said to make 
up for it he would put me into the rear-gun turret. This proved to be 
one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had. The turret was 
a round, glassed-in cubicle which swung out over the sea. I suddenly 
found myself locked in, with the wind whistling ominously through 
the gun openings, and below me nothing but a sickening drop into 
the sea. 

"Let me out! "I yelled. 

"What's the matter?" grinned the engineer when I was back in the 
cabin once more. "We were thinking of signing you up as our perma- 
nent rear-gunner." 

This gave the engineer the idea of organizing a little gunnery prac- 
tice. The crew put on helmets, with wires and microphones attached, 
enabling them to communicate to each other from all parts of the ship. 
The engineer then broadcast an enemy attack with frightening 


realism: "Now they're on our tail! They're diving towards the star- 
board! And here come two more! Port side!" After practising the 
movement of the guns, targets were thrown out and the gunners fired 
short bursts. 

Soon it was all over, but two of the gunners forgot to disconnect 
their microphones. The pilot suddenly heard one of them saying: "I 
wonder how long it's going to be before we're allowed to bring one 
of our lassies up on a hop?" 

The pilot said: "I advise whoever is doing the talking to remove his 
helmet." There was a sharp click, then silence. 

There were no further incidents that afternoon and we patrolled 
hour after hour with only sea and sky stretching endlessly before us. 
We landed in the harbour just as it was getting dark. 

The sequel to the story is a sad one, for the next morning the little 
Australian cook who had longed to "get a smack at Jerry" left on a 
flight for Gibraltar. His ship sighted and attacked a Dormer 18. 
Although the latter was put to flight, the cook, who played his part 
as front gunner, was seriously wounded and died a few hours later. 

I felt as though I had lost an old friend. 



Chapter 111 



drifted in for tea. It was so peaceful there, looking out on the green 
trees in the middle of the quiet square that the war seemed a long way 
off. You had watched the air fights from the high cliffs on the coast 
and you knew the Battle for Britain was being fought hour by hour; 
even so, in London it was hard to take it in. 

London still had its age-old air of tranquility. Not that its appear- 
ance hadn't changed: only a year before the thoroughfares had been 
crowded with traffic, the hotels filled with visitors from abroad, and 
the ballroom at Buckingham Palace glittering with more diamonds 
than any other room in the world. Now the streets were half empty. 
Entrances to Government buildings were sand-bagged and protected 
by wire barricades, the parks were filled with anti-aircraft troops and 
even the scarlet tunics and black bearskins of the Guards in front of 
the palace had given way to tin hats and khaki. 

But in spite of the transition, the capital had lost little of its placid 
charm. To me, it still seemed a wonderful place to be. Life was more 
informal than it had ever been before you even saw women strolling 
down Bond Street in slacks and sweaters, sometimes complete with 
picture hat and Pekinese. People lunched and dined Dutch treat, filled 
the out-of-door restaurants and went to cinemas, football matches and 
races. Occasionally the sirens sounded, but only a few raiders pene- 
trated the capital's defences during the summer and people seldom 
bothered to take cover. 

The first Saturday afternoon in September, Anne and I motored 
down to Mereworth, about forty miles south of London, to spend the 



week-end with Esmond Harmsworth. It was a warm, sunny day and 
we had tea on the lawn. Suddenly we heard the drone of planes. At 
first we couldn't see anything, but soon the noise had grown into a 
deep, full roar, like the far-away thunder of a giant waterfall. We lay 
in the grass, our eyes strained towards the sky; we made out a batch 
of tiny white specks, like clouds of insects, moving north-west in the 
direction of the capital. Some of them the bombers were flying in 
even formation, while the others the fighters swarmed protectively 

One of Esmond's house guests, an old gentleman, near-sighted and 
hard of hearing, refused to believe it. To him, the world was a peace- 
ful place and he was determined it should remain so. Even when the 
anti-aircraft shrapnel burst against the sky he insisted that it was only 
the guns on the practice range. During the next hour, Anne and I 
counted over a hundred and fifty planes. They were not meeting with 
any resistance and were coming in such a volume we realized they had 
probably already broken through the defences. 

"Poor London," said Anne. 

"Rubbish!" said the old gentleman. "You've been staying up too 
late. You'd better go and take a rest." 

That was Saturday, September the seventh, the date that marked 
the beginning of the savage night attacks on London. From five o'clock 
that afternoon until the small hours of the morning, bombs rained 
down on the capital in the most furious air attack the world had ever 
known. While it was going on the German wireless broadcast hourly 
reports. The announcer said excitedly: 

Bombs fall all over the place, and the fires flame up. Thick clouds of 
smoke spread over the roofs of the greatest city in the world. Explosions 
are detected as far up as the German planes. The efforts of the British 
anti-aircraft guns are unsuccessful. 

Further waves of planes are constantly arriving, while a section of 
the German planes, which have unloaded their bombs, proceed on their 
homeward flight. The heart of the British Empire is delivered up to the 
attack .of the German Air Force. 

The Germans scored hits on dock buildings, factories, railway com- 
munications, gas and electricity plants. But it was the warehouses that 
made the greatest blaze. All night loisg they burned, millions of pounds 


worth of wool, tobacco, rubber and sugar fuelling the most formidable 
fire London had seen since another September in the year 1666. Even 
where we were, forty miles away, the sky glowed pink. 

The ordinary telephone service to London was disconnected, but 
Esmond had a private wire to his newspaper, the Sunday Dispatch; 
the editor had little new information except that the sky was more 
crimson than ever, planes were still coming, bombs still falling, and if 
the paper ever got to press no one would be more surprised than he. 
Even the old gentleman looked thoughtful. At nine o'clock we turned 
on the radio and heard the flat voice of the B.B.C. announcer reading 
the Air Ministry communique: 

Late this afternoon enemy aircraft in large numbers crossed the coast 
of Kent and approached the London area. They were heavily engaged 
by our fighters and A.A. guns, but a number of them succeeded in 
penetrating to the industrial area of East London. As a result of these 
attacks, fires were caused among the industrial targets in this area. Dam- 
age was done to the lighting and other public services and some disloca- 
tion of communications was caused. Attacks have also been directed 
against the docks. 

That certainly didn't tell us much. It was so non-committal we 
became more apprehensive than ever. We could still hear the noise of 
engines overhead. Esmond said that in peace-time Mereworth had 
been on the direct route of the German civil pilots coming from 
Berlin to London, via Holland. Evidently they were keeping to the 
same course. As the steady drone kept up through the night we began 
to wonder if there was going to be anything left of the capital at all. 

Shortly after we'd gone to bed there was a violent explosion as a 
thousand-pound bomb landed about a quarter of a mile away. Mere- 
worth, a substantial, eighteenth-century house, shook violently. A 
moment later we were out in the corridor asking each other what had 
happened. The old gentleman was missing. We went into his room 
and found him sitting up in bed reading, with the windows open and 
the lights blazing. We snapped them off admonishing him indignantly, 
then went downstairs and walked onto the terrace. We could hear 
guns in the distance and the pink glow seemed to be growing brighter. 
We went into the drawing-room and turned on the radio, hoping to 
hear some news, but all we got was a series of Hawaiian melodies from 


America. Anne cheered everyone up by saying that the dome on top 
of the house probably looked like a huge gasometer from the air and 
would certainly be taken for a military objective. With this thought 
firmly in mind, we all went gloomily to bed. 

The next morning we learned that London was still standing. Miles 
of East End houses had been destroyed however, and thousands of 
people were homeless. I was returning in the afternoon and had ar- 
ranged to have tea with a friend in Brentwood on the way. To get 
there, I had to drive to Gravesend, about fifteen miles away, and ferry 
across the Thames; although it semed doubtful that the roads would be 
passable, I started off about three o'clock in the afternoon. 

The countryside had such a complacent look about it, it was hard 
to believe that anything out of the ordinary had happened. The first 
sign I saw was when I reached the ferry: great clouds of dark smoke 
were pouring down the estuary from the Woolwich docks. No one 
seemed disconcerted, however, for the Sunday afternoon scene was as 
peaceful as ever: the two ferrymen basking lazily in the sun; one of 
the dock-workers reading the morning paper; and the ticket-collector 
grumbling that the Huns were a noisy lot and he hadn't had a wink 
of sleep. From his bored tone of voice, you might have thought the 
disturbance had been caused by nothing more unusual than a cat on 
the back fence. 

From Tilbury to Brentwood, another fifteen miles, I passed about a 
half a dozen smashed buildings, and made several diversions where 
time bombs had fallen; but on the whole, the area seemed surprisingly 
free of damage. When I arrived at the hotel I found my friend, an 
officer in an artillery regiment, in high spirits. I commented on the 
burning warehouses, but he waved my remarks aside, insisting that the 
Germans* primary aim was not the docks but to spread alarm and 
despondency by knocking out all the saloons and pubs. The bombers 
had been over again that afternoon, but the British fighters still had 
their tails up. He had just come from an aerodrome where a fighter 
squadron was operating, and said that many of the pilots were coming 
in doing the "victory roll"- the signal that they had "got their man." 
One fighter did three victory rolls and the ground workers cheered. 

I left for London, about twenty miles away, at seven-thirty. If I 
had realized the blitz of the night before was to be repeated, I would 


have taken care to get home before the sirens sounded. As it was, the 
mournful wail sounded a few minutes after I had started. It was 
getting dark and I drove as fast as possible to make the best of the 
light. Although I was travelling through one of the most congested 
London suburbs (Stratford a mile or so from East Ham), the streets 
were clearing rapidly; people were running for shelter in all direc- 
tions, and buses and trucks were coming to a stop. Lines of tramcars 
stood empty. Soon there was an ominous silence and mine was practi- 
cally the only car on the road. 

Two stranded soldiers waved to me and I stopped and gave them a 
lift. It was difficult driving in the semi-darkness and the quiet was 
oppressive. Suddenly, a few hundred yards ahead of us, we heard a 
sickening whistle and a deafening explosion. A bomb landed in the 
middle of the street and there was a shower of glass and debris from 
the houses on either side. The whistles blew and A.R.P. workers and 
special police deputies were on the job almost immediately; it was 
too dark to see what damage had been done to the houses, but the 
street was covered with rubble. 

The police warned us to be careful and detoured us round to an- 
other road. Soon we heard an ambulance siren ringing. Ahead of us 
the sky had lit up in a red glow and we could hear more bombs 
dropping in the darkness. We closed all the windows in order not to 
be hit by flying shrapnel (the wrong thing to do) and continued on 
our way. The soldiers were quiet. It was so dark I couldn't see them 
very well; they were just shapes in the back of the car. Occasionally 
one of them muttered: "We'll get them for this," but that was all. 
Their destination was London Bridge and, somehow, with the sound 
of the bombs and the guns, and the sky a deep fire pink, I couldn't 
help thinking of the old nursery rhyme: "London Bridge is falling 
down." They evidently thought of it too, for I heard one saying to 
the other: "I'll lay you odds the old bridge isrft down," and he was 
right, for a mile or so later it loomed up in front of us as solid and 
substantial as ever. 

I then drove through the heart of the Gty which seemed as eerie 
and deserted as a graveyard. I stopped to ask the way of an A.R.P. 
warden and he asked me to take two of his workers up to Piccadilly. 
The men hadn't had their clothes off for forty-eight hours. They had 


just come from a building where five people were dug out of the 
ruins. "Three women and two children," one of them told me grimly: 
then, almost under his breath: "The price is going to be high for the 
Germans when the war is over." 

I finally reached Montagu Square and found Mr. and Mrs. Kinch 
(the caretaker and his wife) in the kitchen, calmly having their 
supper. Overhead you could hear the sound of the planes, and every 
now and then the house shook and the windows rattled as a bomb 
dropped somewhere in the vicinity. I asked them if they weren't 
afraid and Mrs. Kinch said: "Oh, no. If we were, what good would it 
do us?" 

There was certainly no answer to that; although I had a sinking 
feeling in my stomach, I thought if they could take it I ought to be 
able to take it too, and climbed into bed hoping that if death came it 
would be instantaneous. 

The next morning the sky was blue and innocent. If you hadn't seen 
the yawning craters and the wreckage, you might have thought that 
you had dreamt it. Traffic was normal, the shops were full, old ladies 
sunned themselves in the park, and soldiers and their girl friends 
strolled down Piccadilly arm in arm. I lunched at the Berkeley res- 
taurant and found it as noisy and crowded as ever. Suddenly there 
was a bang. The room shook as a time-bomb exploded a few blocks 
away. A pretty girl in a saucy hat turned to the young army subaltern 
with her, and said, in a voice that rang across the restaurant: 

"Did you drop something?" 

You can write about the blinding flashes of gunfire and the long 
hiss of the bombs; about the deep roar of falling masonry like the 
thunder of breakers against the shore. You can write about the red 
glow of flames through the blackness, about the searchlight beams, the 
stars and the flares all mixed up together against the sky. You can write 
about these things, but it is improbable that they will convey the 
mixed sensations of the moment. The noise of the planes was the 
worst an uneven, droning noise like the sound of a dentist's drill. 
Sometimes it grew so loud you held your breath, wondering painfully 


if the bomb racks would open. Once, Vincent Sheean stopped in 
the middle of a sentence and glared angrily into space. 

"What's the matter?" I asked. 

"Nothing. I'm just waiting for that bastard to ge<- out of the 


That seemed to describe it best of all. 

Everyone asked me how it compared with the raids in Barcelona 
and Helsinki and said: "You're probably so used to this sort of thing 
you don't mind it at all." Well, I wasn't. It was far worse than any- 
thing I had known before. Other air raids had lasted fifteen or twenty 
minutes, then ended. These went on all night and there was no section 
of London you could go to feel safe. Life turned upside-down while 
everyone scrambled to adjust themselves to an entirely new routine. 
Conversation was devoted to one topic only: where and how to sleep. 
The rich were no better off than the poor, for there wasn't a single 
shelter in London (including the shelter in Buckingham Palace) deep 
enough to withstand a direct hit. Everyone had theories on the sub- 
ject: some preferred the basement, others said the top of the house 
was safer than being trapped under debris; some recommended a 
narrow trench in the back garden, and still others insisted it was best 
to forget it and die comfortably in bed. (Lord and Lady Camrose had 
the first argument of their married life. Lord Camrose said that since 
there was a shelter only a few yards from the house, it was ridiculous 
not to use it; Lady Camrose said that any concession, however slight, 
was a moral victory for the Germans. I think Lady Camrose won.) 

During the first few nights, buses, street cars and taxi-cabs came 
to a halt. People were stranded all over London with no means of 
getting home. I ran into Eddie Ward of the B.B.C. and asked him 
where he was staying. "Nowhere. I just sleep wherever I happen 

to eat." 

A good many others did the same thing. Conventions went, and 
everyone doubled up wherever they could find a bed. A few people 
had their own cars and strangers besieged them for lifts. No one 
wanted to be alone, however, and you heard respectable young ladies 
saying to their escorts: "I'm not going home unless you promise to 
spend the night." 

The hotel lobbies presented a strange picture, for besides the stray 


visitors sleeping in armchairs, many of the permanent guests, fearful 
of remaining on the top floors, brought their mattresses and pillows 
downstairs and made their beds wherever they could find a space. 
They wandered about in all forms of odd attire: beach pyjamas, 
slacks, siren suits, and some just in ordinary wrappers with their night- 
dresses trailing on the floor. Many of them sat up on their improvised 
beds, knitting, while strains from the dance orchestra echoed through 
the lobby and people thronged back and forth. Once I tripped over 
King Zog's sister, who was sleeping peacefully outside the door of 
the Ritz restaurant. 

A few days later London's defences were strengthened. Every avail- 
able anti-aircraft gun was dragged into the capital and all night long 
belched and roared in a deafening crescendo. On the first night of the 
barrage, a group of us were dining at the Dorchester Hotel, a few 
yards from the Hyde Park batteries; the windows rattled and for once 
even the wail of the saxophone was lost. At one point an incendiary 
bomb crashed on to the pavement. Someone pulled back the curtain 
and the window was a sheet of flame. The band grew louder and 
couples went on dancing. Vincent Sheean said it was so reminiscent of 
the scene in Idiot's Delight it made him feel self-conscious. 

On this particular night Seymour Berry drove Anne and me home. 
There were a good many fires in the park and we overheard a woman 
saying, tearfully: "Now Hyde Park is going. And I did love it so." 
Outside, lights were flashing against the sky, and the noise was ap- 
palling. Anne and I were frightened, but Seymour, a captain in an 
anti-aircraft regiment, seemed to think the guns had a beautiful sound 
and insisted on driving along Park Lane at five miles an hour to drink 
in the full splendour of the moment. 

"Do hurry, you idiot!" we said in exasperation. 

"Now, you two pipe down. There's nothing to be alarmed about. 
Try to think of some nineteen-year-old boy flying around up there 
in the darkness twice as scared as you are . . ." 

"Oh, shut up!" said Anne. 

We finally got home and after that I took pains to drive my own 

People accepted the odd situations they found themselves in not 
only calmly, but with a good deal of humour. On the night John 


Lewis's Department Store burned to the ground, a group of us were 
stranded in Claridge's Hotel, a few blocks away. The blaze illuminated 
the sky for miles and the Germans kept pounding at the brightly-lit 
area all night long. I was dining with Basil Duff erin. About eleven 
o'clock we tried to leave. My car was parked around the corner and 
we had gone only a few paces when there was a whistle. An A.R.P. 
man across the street, shouted: "Get down! " Basil was a soldier, but I 
put him to shame by the rapidity with which I responded. Luckily, it 
was a dud and didn't go off . I insisted on returning to the hotel. A tall, 
bespectacled soldier was standing in the middle of the hall, arguing 
with his wife about leaving. She said it was dangerous and he said it 
was nonsense; finally, he went out into the night by himself. Five 
minutes later he was back, looking like a ghost. He sank into a chair, 
breathing heavily; his wife fanned him with a magazine, and the waiter 
brought him a glass of brandy. As he was turning the corner, a bomb 
had fallen. The blast had hurled him across the street. He had turned 
two somersaults in the air and landed on the opposite pavement, by 
some miracle, still intact. 

By this time the lobby was becoming more crowded than ever. 
Dozens of people were streaming down the stairs with their bed- 
clothes over their arms. Everyone talked to everyone else, a round of 
drinks was ordered, and from the general merriment, you might have 
thought an enjoyable (if somewhat odd) costume party was going on. 
Finally, an A.R.P. warden came in and advised everyone to keep to 
one side of the hotel as a time-bomb had fallen in Davies Street and 
was apt to go off at any moment. A few minutes later we saw an 
elderly lady coming down the stairs. She was wearing a long black 
coat, a black hat, and a pair of smoked glasses. We recognized her as 
Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. She was accompanied by three ladies- 
in-waiting and as she walked through the lobby a hush fell over the 
group. There was something very gallant in the figure of that old 
lady ; she looked tough. You knew if she hadn't been ordered to evacu- 
ate, nothing would have induced her to go to a shelter. 

In the meantime, Anne's friends had named Montagu Square 
"Hell's Corner." A good many bombs had fallen around her house, 
but she stubbornly refused to leave. "Otherwise," she said, "where 
would we have tea in the afternoon?" That was a serious considera- 


tion. Mr. and Mrs. Kinch took their blankets and spent the nights in a 
shelter a few yards away, but since it was no safer against a direct hit 
than staying at home, Anne and I preferred the comfort of our own 
beds. We finally lost our nerve, however, when the house across the 
street was demolished. It was a macabre sight. Chunks of stone and 
bits of pulverized furniture gushed across the street: a red skirt, a 
blouse and a stocking fluttered from the tree-tops in front of our 
window; all day long workmen dug through the debris trying to 
recover the seven bodies pinned beneath. The only person who sur- 
vived was the maid who was sleeping on the top floor; she fell with 
the wreckage and escaped with only a few cuts and bruises. 

Anne closed the house, sent the furniture into storage and moved 
to a hotel. She went to the country for a few days' rest, but even there 
a stick of bombs landed on either side of the house. The maid came 
running into her room. "Mr. Harmsworth (Anne's host) is buried 
under four feet of debris." Anne, by this time hardened and resource- 
ful, replied: "Whatever you do, don't put on the lights. We'll have to 
look for him in the dark." As it turned out, it was all a mistake and 
Mr. Harmsworth wasn't under the debris. "But if I ever am," he said 
acidly, "you can at least look for me with a torch." 

In the meantime, I went to St. John's Wood to stay with Freda 
Casa Maury. She had moved into a small house with white walls and 
mirror-topped tables. There was a mobile gun in the street and when 
it went off the curtains blew in, the chandeliers swayed, and the 
flower-vases invariably crashed to the floor. Somehow a powerful field 
gun operating from one's front doorstep was so grotesque, it seemed 
comic. The noise was so loud you had to shout to carry on a con- 
versation. On the first night I spent there Vernon the butler, came 
running upstairs at four o'clock in the morning, crying: "There's a 
land mine on the hill. Get out as quick as you can." 

Five minutes later we were crammed into Freda's car Vernon, the 
cook and myself, all in various states of undress speeding down the 
hill. Vernon's nerves had been on edge and Freda suspected him of 
dreaming the whole thing, but the next morning we found it was true. 
A land mine, attached to a parachute, had floated down, and, by some 
lucky chance, settled gently in a vegetable bed without exploding. I 
learned from a friend who went to look at it that an officer and a group 


of soldiers had seen it coming and thought parachute troops were 

landing. They advanced with drawn revolvers. 

"Halt!" cried the major fiercely. "Who goes there?" 

When he saw what "who" was, he bolted down the hill. I told the 

story to Basil Duff erin, who repeated it to an elderly officer in Bucks 

Club. The latter was not amused. No wonder. He was the same major. 

Everyone had similar experiences. I don't believe there was a single 
person out of the whole eight million in London unfamiliar with the 
close whistle of a bomb. Thousands were killed, thousands were in- 
jured arid thousands more were destitute. If I have not dwelt at length 
on the horrors of the ordeal it is not from lack of feeling. I leave the 
terror of the darkness, the moan of the ambulance sirens, and the cries 
of the injured to the imagination of the reader. The ghastliness and 
the suffering do not bear detailed description. Yet it was out of this 
awfulness that England reached up to claim her second great victory. 
British fighters had broken the back of the day attacks; now British 
spirit rose to break the back of the night attacks. It was the same spirit 
that had sent Britons to conquer the seas and explore the four corners 
of the earth; that had driven England's enemies from her shores time 
and time again and raised the Island to lead the greatest Empire the 
world has known. 

There was no break in the dam here as there had been in France. 
Even the weakest link in the chain was reliable. From the highest to 
the humblest, each person played his part. Wardens, police, fire- 
fighting units, doctors, nurses, telephone operators, truck drivers, 
newspaper printers, factory workers, officials and hundreds of others 
stuck to their jobs and kept the huge organization of the capital going. 
The co-ordination between Government and people was a magnifi- 
cent tribute to the solidarity and efficiency of English democracy. 

Freda worked all day at her Feathers Clubs, now crowded with 
people who had been bombed out. She ran five or six meals a day, 
helped hundreds of them to readjust themselves and find new places to 
live. She used to come home at night shaken by the things she had 
seen. "When you see how wonderful human beings can be, it's hard 


to understand how such frightfulness can go on in the world." I 
thought she was wonderful herself, but it was the last thing that 
would have occurred to her: everyone was impressed by the courage 
around them, but no one seemed to think that they themselves were 
extraordinary in any way. At times the standard of self-control they 
took for granted was perplexing. I remember the night a bomb fell on 
a hill not far away. Clouds of dust and smoke rose in the darkness and 
Vernon put on a tin hat and ran across the street. A few minutes later 
he came back with a caretaker and his wife, a soldier and a dog. The 
blast from the explosion had blown in the doors of their house, 
smashed the furniture, and knocked down the plaster. They had 
managed to climb out unhurt except for a few cuts and bruises. Ver- 
non took them into the kitchen and gave them some tea. The care- 
taker's wife looked pale and frightened. I'll never forget her husband 
saying severely: "Don't look so upset, Elizabeth. Everything's all 
right. It's not like you to go to pieces." From the way he spoke you 
might have thought the poor woman was having hysterics rather than 
sitting quietly in the corner. 

The soldier had come home on twenty-four hours' leave and had 
dropped in to call on his friends. I couldn't understand why he had 
such a pleased expression until he told me he had never been bombed 
before now he had a good story to tell when he got back to "the 

The East End had been hit the hardest, but even here there was 
no weakening in the fibre. I went down there one afternoon with 
Eddie Ward. We drove for miles along the gutted-out warehouses 
near the docks and through congested areas where hundreds of 
workers' dwelling-houses had been destroyed by explosives and blast. 
It was about five o'clock in the afternoon and people were hurrying 
to their shelters before the darkness came. We stopped at a particu- 
larly desolate spot. The block of houses across the street were a mass 
of wreckage, and the ones opposite swept out by blast. I spoke to two 
girls who were walking along, their arms filled with pillows and 
blankets. I asked them if the planes still bombed this particular section, 

and one of them replied: "Every b night! Cor! don't you know 

we're the front line?" They both laughed and went off to make their 


beds in a shelter underneath a pile of debris. What chance had Hitler 
to break the morale of people like this? 

People soon readjusted their lives. The Daily Express ran a cam- 
paign: "Don't Be a Bomb Bore"; shops put up their "Business As 
Usual" signs (a barber shop next to a wrecked building posted up 
the notice "dose Shave?") and Florence Desmond sang in a wistful 

"I've got a cosy flat, 
There's a place for your hat; 
I wear a pink chiffon negligee gown 
And do I know my stuff? 
And if that's not enough, 
I've got the deepest shelter in town . . ." 

The mattresses disappeared from the hotel lobbies, street cars, buses 
and cabs began running again; shelter conditions were improved; the 
homeless were provided with homes; and a new routine was estab- 
lished. Crowds no longer gathered to peer at the craters in the streets 
the novelty had worn off. 

One night, Lord Londonderry came out of the Dorchester Hotel. 
It was unusually quiet. He asked the doorman if there was an 
alarm on: 

"Yes, m'lord." 

"Have there been any bombs?" 

"No, m'lord. In fact, if I may say so, up till now it's been a very 
poor show." 

People of England, salaam. 


Chapter IV 



"Invasion Week-end." There was a full moon and a high tide. The 
ports across the Channel were swarming with German soldiers, and 
the harbours crowded with flat-bottomed troop-carrying barges; this 
was Hitler's last opportunity to launch an invasion before the equinoc- 
tial gales began. The British Navy doubled its watch-out patrols, the 
Army manned its guns, and the Air Force hammered at the enemy 
bases. England waited. 

That same Friday, Knickerbocker and I drove down to Dover. We 
left London about eleven o'clock in the morning. Although the night 
blitz had been going on for nearly a week, we were surprised to find 
how little damage had been done to the main roads. On our way 
through the congested suburbs we were forced to detour only twice. 
We passed several houses looking like stage sets with the walls stripped 
off; workmen sweeping up the broken glass in front of a row of shops; 
and a group of people peering curiously down a crater in the middle 
of the street. But that was all. After the terrible pounding of the last 
few nights it seemed surprising that comparatively so litde damage 
had been done. 

Soon we were on the main highway with the country opening up 
around us. There was little traffic until we reached Maidstone; but 
from there to Dover a stretch of about forty miles the atmosphere 
turned into a military one. Army lorries, motor-cycles, Air Force 
camions and light tanks hurtled past us at top speed. Would this road 
resound to the tread of armoured German divisions as so many other 
unlikely roads had done in their time? We stared at the insignificant 
green fields stretching out on either side of us, wondering if men would 



soon be giving their lives to defend them inch by inch; if one day 
teachers would bring their pupils perhaps to that small hill in the 
distance to see a monument marking the place where one of the 
great battles of 1940 had been fought. 

These were the things we were thinking on that bright September 
morning. Knick said suddenly: "Do you suppose one day we'll be 
driving like hell along the road to Norfolk, Virginia, or to Portland, 
Maine, or Los Angeles, or Chicago, to cover an invasion?" 
"You may, but I'll be going in the other direction." 
"Well, it could happen. With the British and French fleets in the 
hands of Germany; with a hostile Japan; with South America and 
Canada under the Axis, it's exactly what would happen. Can you 
imagine what it would be like? Can you see the Nazi mechanized col- 
umns rolling over those long straight roads of ours? Can you see the 
Fifth Columnists sabotaging the power plants and cutting the tele- 
phone wires? Can you see the evacuees streaming out of New York 
and Chicago? And the planes swooping down bombing and machine- 
gunning them? Can you see the panic? It's happened everywhere else 
why not America? By God, I think I'll open up my lecture tour 
like that! What do you think of it?" 
"Well, it ought to keep the audience awake . . ." 
We stopped at Canterbury for lunch. Here the war seemed far 
away. The outline of the great cathedral took you back to another cen- 
tury, and even the food belied the fact that England was a besieged 
and beleaguered fortress. We had lobster mayonnaise, roast chicken, 
vegetable salad and ice-cream. Under the Sundaes we saw the heading: 
"Knickerbocker Glory." Delighted, Knick asked the waitress how 
they had happened to think of it. "Oh, I don't know. We like to give 
our sweets fancy names." Knick paid the bill with a five-pound note 
which called for a signature on the back. The waitress was not amused; 
she gave him an angry look, no doubt thinking it was an ill-advised 
American attempt at humour. 

On the last fifteen miles to Dover we passed a good many barricades 
and camouflaged blockhouses. The fields on either side were cluttered 
with iron stakes, rolls of wire, and even old carts, to prevent German 
planes from landing. At one point we saw one which had landed by 
mistake a twisted mass of steel with a swastika more crooked than 


ever. It looked like a Messerschmitt 109, but, not being an expert I 
asked the sentry standing guard. 

"Can't say, miss," he replied in a bored tone. "There are so many 
types scattered around here. It gets a bit confusing." 

I nodded understandingly and climbed back into the car. I thought 
of the remark some American journalist had made: "We mustn't ex- 
aggerate. Kent is not knee-deep in planes: only ankle-deep." 

A few miles outside Dover the prohibited area began. A road 
patrol stopped us and we showed our papers. My car had been regis- 
tered with the police several weeks before and the yellow strip on the 
windshield with a Coastal Defence number on it permitted us to drive 
into the town. From the top of a hill we saw the rugged outline of the 
castle on the cliff, the sleepy houses far below and the blue waters of 
the Channel stretching out beyond. In the distance it looked the same 
as it always had, but when we reached the waterfront we found that 
the lively atmosphere had given way to a sombre, melancholy one. 
The Grand Hotel, where we had stayed a few weeks before, was in 
ruins. Half its insides were spilt over the square and the roller-skating 
pavilion next to it had only the sky for a canopy. The balloon barrage 
soldiers were still billeted in a house across the way. The windows 
had been blown out but the walls and roof were still standing. 

We were walking around the square when O'Dowd Gallagher of 
the Daily Express and H. A. Flower of the Daily Telegraph drove up. 
They told us the bombing had taken place only a few days before and 
miraculously enough only two people had been killed. A couple of 
soldiers standing nearby said the bodies were still beneath the wreck- 
age. Just then a bomber swooped out of the clouds, about a thousand 
feet above us. We looked at it, startled, but one of the soldiers said: 
"Oh, that's a Wellington." We went on talking. Suddenly I saw four 
small black specks falling from the under-carriage. They looked like 
a bunch of grapes and for a moment seemed to be hanging in the air. 

"Bombs!" shouted one of the soldiers. "Get down!" 

We flung ourselves, face down, on the pavement. I buried my head 
in my arms and waited. It seemed interminable. Then the earth shud- 
dered violently: one, two, three, four. We picked ourselves up, our 
clothes covered with mud. The bombs had landed on the beach and 


in the water fifty yards away. The plane was a Wellington all right- 
but one the Germans had evidently captured in France. 

We tried to resume our conversation, but twice more lone raiders 
came out of the clouds and twice more we took cover this time 
diving into a small brick shelter in the middle of the green, I'll never 
forget the fat girl with the black curls, who had been hanging around 
the square flirting with the soldiers, breathing heavily on my neck 
and saying: "Christ, it's enough to ruin your digestion." 

It had certainly ruined mine. I decided I'd had enough of Dover 
Square. The men climbed into my car and we drove up to Shakespeare 
Cliff where, three weeks before, we had watched the great air battles 
over the coast. We found Arthur Mencken, the photographer for 
Life, taking pictures of the harbour. There was a strong wind blow- 
ing and the Channel was flecked with white-caps. The coast of France 
looked clearer than usual and with the glasses I made out the light- 
house near Calais, the church steeple in Boulogne and the tall, thin 
monument which had been erected at the end of the last war in 
memory of the famous Dover Patrol. 

"If only we could see some of those invasion barges!" said Knick. 
"What a hell of a good story it would make . . ." 

"I know," said Arthur. "Flash As I was standing to-day on the 
rugged cliffs of Dover I saw the vast German flotilla hoisting anchor 
in final preparations for its death charge across the narrow straits . . ." 

"Wait a minute," said Knick, staring through his glasses. "Who's 
that fat man I see over there with all the medals?" 

"By God!" exclaimed O'Dowd. "And the little dark hunchback 
one standing next to him?" 

"Yes!" said Arthur. "And the one with the crooked moustache?" 

"You don't think it can be Charlie Chaplin?" said Knick. 

It was obvious the bombs had had their effect. 

It was a strange forty-eight hours for a week-end which will prob- 
ably go down in history as the week-end Hitler didn't invade. Opinion 
among the naval and military experts with whom we talked was 
divided as to the likelihood of the attempt, but it was generally agreed 
that any plan to send flat-bottomed boats across the Channel would 


first be preceded by an intense air and land bombardment; then, simul- 
taneously, an effort to land parachute troops several miles behind the 
coast to attack in the rear and ultimately connect with the sea-borne 

It was a strange atmosphere. Knick and I established ourselves in 
a country house only three miles from the coast, which a friend had 
lent us. After the London blitz the quiet was almost oppressive; no 
alarms, no droning planes, no burst of gunfire. Save for an occasional 
raider, or a few haphazard shells into Dover, the only display of fire- 
works was the show put on each night by the R.A.F. When the wind 
was right you could hear the bombs dropping across the Channel. 
One night we drove up to the sea-front and saw the sky lighting up 
with bursts of shrapnel and the red glow of parachute flares. 

Even though the army slept with its boots on and the civilian popu- 
lation went to bed each night prepared to hear the church bells tolling 
to tell them the hour had come, no one had any fear as to the ultimate 
result. When you talked to the local inhabitants about it, they laughed 
and said: "Let him try it." Although the countryside reverberated 
with the sound of lorries and motor-cycles and fields were alive with 
military patrols, the villagers carried on their normal routine as though 
they were far removed from the war. At any hour their farms and 
backyards might have been turned into a battlefield, yet you saw 
children playing in the dusty roads and fanners calmly ploughing 
their fields. Some thought it couldn't happen; others thought it 
wouldn't happen; others never thought about it at all. When the maid 
brought me breakfast in the morning she asked me about the bombing 
of London. 

"It must be very alarming," she said. "Did you come down here 
for a rest?" 

In the meantime, Dr. Goebbels was informing his countrymen that 
the English were trembling in their boots just as the Paris Moniteur 
of 1803 printed despatches from Fifth Column reporters, calculated 
to please: 

London Correspondence, ijth October: The well-to-do inhabitants of 
Dover and the neighbouring coasts have such a fear of the French 
that they have precipitately abandoned their inhabitations and have re- 
tired to Canterbury or London. It is agreed that the season of the year 


and the long nights will be extremely favourable to the enemies' de- 
signs. * . . 

The general opinion in London is that the expedition will take place 
between now and the middle of November. 

London Correspondence, i8th October: A large number of workmen 
are at the moment employed in building locks on the River Lea by 
means of which a part of Essex could be flooded, if need arise. 

From the Dover Correspondence: The alarms and consternation on the 
rumours of a visit from the other side of the water, with which we 
are menaced, increase here day by day. 

. . . When fires were lit at Boulogne, in honour of the arrival of the 
First Consul there, the population of the English coast between Sand- 
gate and Folkestone took fright and fled into the country. 

A Convoy of a hundred ships arriving at Torquay from America was 
mistaken for the French Fleet and a panic ensued. 

On Sunday, both in the morning and in the afternoon, the air was 
filled with the heavy roar of planes; it was that deep, throaty noise 
that meant volume; occasionally we heard the wail of an engine going 
into a power dive and the staccato rattle of machine-gun bullets, but 
low clouds prevented us from seeing anything. Even from Shake- 
speare Cliff there was no break in the solid grey curtain. In fact the 
only plane we saw all day was a nuisance raider. That was in the 
afternoon when we went up to Dover Castle to talk to one of the 
Intelligence Officers. The man we wanted to see wasn't there, but 
an elderly captain asked if there was anything he could do for us. 
When he heard Knickerbocker's name he glared at him angrily. 
"You're the man who says the Germans are going to try to invade 

"That's the opinion in London." 

"Well, if that's what we pay our politicians to think, we'd better 
change the whole lot of them. Invasion? Nonsense! The Germans 
won't get over here unless we decide to build a bridge for them. 
Hitler's one big bluff." 

We were standing on a small promontory which jutted over the 
cliff with the long sweep of the Channel below us. The captain had 
scarcely spoken his last words before a German raider dived out of 


the clouds and dropped a stick of bombs that seemed to whistle past 
our noses. Three hit the water and the fourth hit the end of the pier, 
about a mile away. 

"I don't think bluff is exactly the right word," said Knick; the cap- 
tain cleared his throat but made no comment. 

Bluff or no bluff, no one was taking any chances, and for miles 
behind the coast towns and villages were honeycombed with troops. 
The three nights we were there Knick and I dined with some of the 
officers of the Queen's Westminsters, who were billeted only a short 
distance away from where we were staying. Tom Mitford was the 
adjutant of the regiment and persuaded the proprietress of the neigh- 
bouring pub to let us come in and cook our own dinner. Knick and I 
spent hours buying tinned food everything from baked beans and 
vegetable salad to pickled onions and Californian pears. The boys 
provided eggs and butter, and, with the confidence that all men seem 
to have in their ability to cook, crowded into the kitchen offering to 
mix the omelette and warm up the beans. It seemed strange to see 
the young men you had dined and danced with now members of a 
shock troop regiment, waiting to meet the Nazi invasion. They 
appeared to regard it as a comic situation themselves and when one 
of them expressed doubts as to whether the Germans would ever make 
the attempt, Anthony Winn said brightly: "Well, if they don't I'm 
going to resign before hordes of angry bombed-out civilians start 
handing us white feathers." 

On Monday the order came that they could take off their boots 
when they went to bed. Things were relaxing. Knick and I started 
back to London with "invasion week-end" fading peacefully into the 
background. What had happened? At the time it was difficult to draw 
any conclusions, but now, in the light of past events, the answer is 
more obvious. The Sunday we spent wandering about the streets of 
Dover buying our tins of baked beans and vegetable salad was Septem- 
ber the fifteenth the greatest day in the history of the Royal Air 
Force. The actions which took place were described by the Prime 
Minister in the House of Commons as "the most brilliant and fruitful 
of any fought upon a large scale up to that date by the fighters of the 
Royal Air Force." The enemy lost one hundred and eighty-five air- 


This was the last big wallop the Germans took. When the score 
was chalked up on the night of the fifteenth, the Germans had lost 
1,835 planes over three-quarters of the total number they lost during 
the whole three months of their intensive daylight attacks. 

That memorable day marked the turn of the tide. The back of the 
Nazi Air Force was broken and Germany had failed to establish the 
crushing superiority essential for a successful invasion. According to 
the pamphlet published by the Air Ministry, The Battle of Britain, 
Germany's failure to destroy the British Fighter Force meant : 

. . . defeat of the German Air Force itself, defeat of a carefully 
designed strategical plan, defeat of that which Hitler most longed for 
invasion of this Island. The Luftwaffe which, as Goebbels said on the 
eve of the battle, had "prepared the final conquest of the last enemy 
England," did its utmost and paid very heavily for the attempt. Between 
the 8th August and 3ist October, 2,375 German aircrafts are known to 
have been destroyed in daylight. This figure takes no account of those 
lost at night or those, seen by thousands, staggering back to their French 
bases, wings and fuselage full of holes, ailerons shot away, engines smok- 
ing and dripping glycol, undercarriages dangling the retreating rem- 
nants of a shattered and disordered Armada. This melancholy procession 
of the defeated was to be observed not once but many times during 
those summer and autumn days of 1940. Truly it was a great deliverance. 

We left the peace of the English coast regretfully and headed back 
to London and the blitz once more. On the way, Knick said: "I've 
been thinking over what that sour-faced captain at the Castle said. 
I didn't take to him any too well, but I'm beginning to think he's 
right. Hitler really does need a bridge." 


Chapter V 



immediate problems of the day are preventing the ducks from catch- 
ing cold, the pigs from catching swine fever, and the cows from 
gnawing the branches off the peach trees. This is where Maureen and 
Oliver Stanley live and I have been staying here for the past few 
months writing this book. Maureen's life has altered greatly in the last 
year; The Spectator and Harper's Bazaar have been replaced by The 
Feathered World and The Egg; ambassadors are kept waiting on the 
telephone while she argues with the handyman about a new mash 
for the chickens; and we are all wise enough to know that the local 
auctioneer and the dairywoman must be treated with marked 

Maureen's London house, 58 Romsey Street, was wrecked the first 
month of the blitz; shortly afterwards, she moved down here and 
turned her hand to farming. Every now and then she travels north to 
make a speech for the Food Ministry or the Ministry of Information. 
A few weeks ago, I saw on her calendar: March twenty-fifth: Four 
of the fattest pigs go to market Maureen speaks at Queen's Hall. 
(Oliver's comment: "Be sure you don't get the two things mixed.") 

It is peaceful here in the country. At night you hear the German 
planes overhead, but so far this particular neighbourhood has had 
only one bomb. It landed in a pasture not far from the house. Duff 
Cooper was here for the week-end and village gossip insisted that was 
the reason why. I went out in the morning to look at the crater and 
found four cows staring at it with melancholy eyes. Cows don't under- 
stand that sort of thing. 

During the winter I have gone to London once a week to work in 



the library. The streets are more deserted now and there are many 
new caverns where houses have stood, but the spirit is as firm as ever. 
The other day I went to see Mrs. Sullivan. Her arm was in a sling and 
her leg was swollen from rheumatism (she had never been able to take 
up her A.R.P. duties), but her morale was undaunted. When I asked 
her how long she thought the war would last she said it would be 
over this year. 


"Oh, those Germans are always the same. They start big, but old 
Sullivan says in the end they always fizzle out. Besides, with that com- 
mon trash 'Itler, where can they expect to land except in the gutter? 
But, I say, miss, wasn't that big blitz something! They did try to give 
it to us! I said to Sullivan it was just like someone sitting up there 
shelling peas. I went to bed with my clothes on. I didn't want to be 
turned out in the street like some people with only a night-dress on. 
And I don't mind telling you those whistles made me stop and wonder 
how good a life I'd led. But I suppose it's all in getting used to things. 
As old Sullivan says, you'll never hear the bomb what 'its you, so why 
worry?' 1 

She beamed at me and I had a warm, comfortable feeling inside. 

That morning I was on my way back to the farm. I remember it 
well, for when I passed through the village of Datchet and turned on 
to the country lane to Windsor the great castle on the hill loomed up 
with a breath-taking beauty. The grey towers rose out of a heavy 
white ground mist, as though they were floating in the heavens. I had 
made the same drive many times before and seen the castle at all times 
of the day; at noon, standing up boldly against a brilliant blue sky; in 
the evening, with its mighty contours mellowed by the fading light; 
in the early morning, glistening with a splendour that once occasioned 
Samuel Pepys to describe it as "the most romantique castle that is in 
the world." But I had never seen it more beautiful than on this par- 
ticular morning. 

As I drove along the winding road with the narrow stream of the 
Thames running through the fields and Windsor Park, guarded by its 
great craggy oak trees, stretching out before me, I thought of the long 


span of human history the Castle had marked. The Doomsday Survey 
of 1086 mentions a castle on a hill, and it was there that William the 
Conqueror held his Court. Edward the Third built the Round Tower 
to hold the Round Table for his Knights of the Garter; Henry the 
Eighth and Edward the Sixth completed the building of St. George's 
Chapel; Charles the First built the drawbridge and Charles the Second 
planted the trees in the Park. It was from this Castle that King John 
went forth to sign the Magna Charta; it was here that Queen Eliza- 
beth spent her childhood, hunting in the forests attended by "half a 
hundred ladies on hackneys"; it was here that Queen Victoria estab- 
lished herself and earned the name of "the widow of Windsor." 

The ramparts of the castle have looked down on nearly a thousand 
years of history, during which no invader has succeeded in setting 
foot on the shores of England. Through this long span they have 
watched the nation meet many violent changes and survive many 
hazardous wars. But now, in the year of Our Lord nineteen hundred 
and forty-one, they rise out of the April mists to witness the most 
perilous moment of all. 

Not only is England's existence at stake, but all the gain she has 
earned through the ages. On her victory the hopes of people in every 
corner of the world are pinned. I have seen some of them and they 
pass through my mind now in a long and vivid procession: the ragged 
soldiers fighting in the mountains near Madrid; the weeping women 
in the streets of Prague; the tragic refugees streaming across the Polish 
frontiers; the Finnish patrols slipping through the ice-bound forests 
of the Arctic; the terrified flow of humanity choking the roads from 
Paris to Tours. 

Although the consequences will be far more reaching than in any 
previous conflict, what is happening to-day is not new. All through 
history, tyrants have arisen with a lust for power which they have 
sought to satisfy by the enslavement of their fellow beings. All 
through history, men have struggled to keep their necks free of the 
yoke. With the teachings of Christ came the first great conception of 
the sanctity of individual life. On this conception the foundation of 
our civilization has been laid. The stones have been added with blood, 
sweat and inspiration. Like Windsor Castle itself, the structure has 


been supplemented and rebuilt throughout the years with the splen- 
dour of each addition marking our progress. 

But progress is not inevitable. We have progressed because we have 
met and defeated every challenge to our conception of life. Now we 
are faced with the threat of a savage retrogression. The tyrants of our 
time have borrowed their creed from the era of barbarism. They kill, 
plunder and torture; they deny man the right to claim his soul. 

Although the great mass of civilized people are revolted by these 
precepts, science has provided the oppressors with such formidable 
weapons that should they gain the ultimate victory human resistance 
will be broken with terrible finality. 

Railways, roads, machines and wireless all play their part in the 
familiar pattern of corruption, devastation and subjection. Vast armies 
are set in motion, vast communities are destroyed, and vast areas held 
in subjection. If Napoleon had possessed the machinery of the present 
century with which to enforce his conquests, history might have told 
a different tale. Instead, the nations he broke rose up again like ghosts 
and, led by Great Britain, in the end destroyed him, Now no coun- 
tries rise. When a conquest is accomplished, it is complete; only the 
dark night sets in. 

How can such things have happened? Little over twenty years ago 
people all over the world were rejoicing in the Armistice. The war to 
end wars had been fought and won. "On that November evening," 
wrote Winston Churchill, "the three men at the head of Great Britain, 
the United States and France, seemed to be the masters of the world. 
. . . Together they had reached their goal. Victory absolute and in- 
comparable was in their hands. What would they do with it?" 

The three men laid the foundation for the first international court 
of justice civilization has ever known. People had suffered badly and 
now peace was at a higher premium than ever before. Two decades 
later the structure was in ruins and amity had once more deserted the 
earth. The part I have seen of the collapse is small related to the whole, 
but I know that it was due less to neglect than to bewilderment in 
understanding how to preserve it. One by one, each of us preferred 
the expediency of the moment to the lasting pattern of the future. 
Although our pacifism provided the dictators with a powerful weapon 
and finally expedited the most terrible war of all, our widespread at- 


tachment to peace should not now be despised. It was a tremendous 
advancement in itself. If, when peace is re-born again, our devotion 
to it can be fortified with the wisdom to know how to guard and 
defend it from infancy onwards, there is every hope for the future. 

Where did we fail? To-day the metaphor is so simple even a child 
can understand it. The world was our village and we were the people 
who had struggled desperately to rid our community of bandits. 
When the fight was won we threw away our weapons joyfully, con- 
vinced we had settled the matter once and for all. The very fact that 
we were unarmed attracted more bandits. Even so, we outnumbered 
them; if we had taken immediate and united action we could have 
destroyed them with little effort before they grew too strong. In- 
stead, appalled by the prospect of more bloodshed, we locked the 
doors and bolted the windows, each one trusting that although his 
neighbour might be robbed and plundered, he himself would be 
spared. We failed to understand that our neighbour's misfortune was 
our misfortune; that we are all part of the whole; that when the bells 
toll they toll for us. 

Even now, we, the people of the United States, do not seem to 
understand it. Already we bear a grave responsibility to history. Of 
the three great Powers to whom the victory of 1918 belonged, we 
were the first to shrink from our obligations. We were the first to de- 
sert the whole. Because our house was removed from the centre of the 
community, we felt more secure than our neighbours. One by one 
their houses have been destroyed. Now, besides our own, only one 
strong point remains from which to resist them. We are still living on 
the outskirts of the village, but when the village has gone, even though 
our roof and walls may still be standing, we will be afraid to walk in 
the gardens and fields, or for that matter, even to take our pigs to 
market, for fear of being set upon. Our Isolationists still whisper to 
us to shut our eyes to the village fight; even though our children and 
our children's children will be denied all freedom of action, with no 
fields to work or play in, they advise us to think only of the preserva- 
tion of our own life and property. But it is unlikely that we shall even 
be successful there. The other houses in the village are in ashes; why 
should ours be spared? 


On March the fifteenth, four days after the signing of the Lease 
and Lend Bill, President Roosevelt said in a speech: 

The Nazi forces are not seeking mere modification in colonial maps 
or in minor European boundaries. They openly seek the destruction of 
all collective systems of Government on every continent, including our 
own; they seek to establish systems of Government based on the regi- 
mentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers who 
seized power by force . . . 

There is no longer the slightest question of doubt. The American 
people recognize the supreme seriousness of the present situation. That 
is why they have demanded and got a policy of unqualified immediate, 
all-out aid for Britain for Greece, for China, and for all Governments 
in exile whose home-lands are temporarily occupied by the aggressors. 

Do not let us deceive ourselves. We are not giving "all-out aid" to 
Britain. We cannot buy victory with our cheque-books. If we, at 
last, have come to realize that world progress is indivisible and that 
not only the future of European civilization is at stake but the future 
of our own civilization as well, why are our ships not fighting on the 
Atlantic? Why are our soldiers and airmen not defending our way of 
life? Our forebears gave us our heritage through the sweat of their 
achievements; they chained the mighty rivers and forests, blazed the 
trails west, and put down lawlessness in the deserted reaches of the 
continent. They shed their blood to establish the principle of justice 
and equality we take for granted. They fought their most savage war 
for the conception that has built us into the most powerful democracy 
the world has known: "United we stand, divided we fall." 

To-day, on a broader horizon, the same tenet applies. Divided we 
will fall. United and only united we will stand. With desperate 
conviction, I say: Let us recapture the virility of our forebears and 
rise up now, before it is too late, to declare war on the Nazi forces 
which threaten our way of life. Let us rise up now in all our splendour 
and fight side by side with Great Britain until we reach a victory so 
complete that freedom will ring through the ages to come with a 
strength no man dare challenge. 



Abingdon, Lady, 103 

Abyssinia, Invasion of, 245 

Agence cTEspagne, 40 

Aguilar de Campo, 83 

Aguilera, Captain, So ff ., 86 ff. 

Aguirre, M. (Basque President), 68 

Aitken, Max, 278 

Alba, Duke of, 181 

Alba y Yeltes, Count of, 80 

Alcala de Henares, 10 

Alfiero, Dino, 245, 253, 343 

Amiens, 134 

Anfuso, Signor, 343 

Anglo-Italian Agreement, 102 

Angly, Edward, 390 ff. 

Arctic Highway, Great, 324 

Asch, 1581. 

Associated Press, The, 4, 92, 320, 373 

Astor, Lord William, 103 

Asturias, Province of, 80 

Atholl, Duchess of, 26 f. 

Atdee, Major C. R., 100 

Aussig, 122 

Austria, iiiff., 114, n6f. 

Avila, 75 

Axis, Rome-Berlin, 112 

Balbo, Italo, 249 f ., 344 

Baldwin, Lord Stanley, 3, 103, 106 

Balfour, Lord, 115 

Bapaume, 134 

Barcelona, no 

"Batde of Britain, The," 434 

Beattie, Edward, 137, 140, 155, 178, 

312 f., 326 

Beaverbrook, Lord, 105 f., 112, 239 
Belville, Rupert, 59 ff., 70, 91, 93 
Benesh, President, 120, 161, 164, 167, 
"Bengal Lancer," 61 
Bennett, Mellie, 8 

Berchtesgaden, 102, in, 117, 153, 158 f n 
165, 183, 251 f., 253 

Beriya, M., 217 

Berlin, i36f., i86f\, 260 f. 

Berliner Tageblatt, 342 

Berry, Seymour, i66f., 277, 421 

Biarritz, 59, 94 

Biddle, Anthony, 271 

Bilbao, 58, 63 ff., 69 f ., 76 

Birkenhead, Lady (Margaret), 181, 279 

Birkenhead, Lady (Sheik), 115, 278 

Birkenhead, Lord, 278 

Bismarck, Princess, 342 

"Black Arrows, The," 65 

"Black Flames, The," 65 

"Black Record: Germans Past and Pres- 
ent," 257 

Bleriot, M., 113 

Blum, Leon, 32 

Boehmer, Dr., 178, 259 

Bohlen, Avis (Mrs. Charles), 209 f. 

Bohlen, Charles, 209 f., 228 

Bonnet, M., 154, 159, 164^ 183 

Bordeaux, 387 

Bothnia, Gulf of, 324 

Bowers, Gaud, 91 

Brantes, Captain de, 266 

Brentwood, 417 

British Broadcasting Corporation, 177, 
292, 381, 399, 420 

British Intelligence Service, 339 

Brocket, Lord, 151 . 

Brunete, Battle of, 77 
271, Bucharest, 269 f. 

Buchman Society, 149 

Budweis, 172, 176 

Bullfighting, 7 f . 
171 Bullitt, Ambassador William, 373 

Burgos, i3,759i 

Busvine, Richard, 332, 338 



Buder, Euan, 137, 178, 187 f., 357 

Butler, Lucy, 187 

Byron, Robert, 149, 151, 153, 187 f. 

Oadogan, Sir Alexander, 101 

Camrose, Lady, 420 

Camrose, Lord, 106, 420 

Canterbury, 428 

Canterbury, Archbishop of, in 

Cappo Mazza, Marchese Benedetto de, 


Capri, 251 

Carabanchel, 33 

Cardozo, Harold, 84 

Carlsbad, 1551"., 177 f. 

Carney, William, 84 

Casa Maury, Marquesa Freda de, 254 ., 
276 f., 280, 423 

Casa Maury, Marquis Robert de, 254 f., 

Cassidy, Henry, 373 f . 

Catalonia, no 

Cernauti, 267, 269, 271 

Chamberlain, Lady (Austen), 102, i8of. 

Chamberlain, Neville [References to per- 
sonal contacts and interviews are in 
italics], 3, 32, 101 ff., 104, inf., 150, 
158 ff., 164 fL, 170, 177, iSoff., 185 ff., 
104, 233, 241, 266, 274, 280, 338 ff., 349 
quoted, 169 

Chamberlain, Mrs. Neville, 181, 184 

Chambrun, Count de, 153 

Charles, Sir Noel, 353 

Chartwell, 108 

Chetwode, Lady Patricia, 08, 166 

Chetwode, Sir Philip, 98, 166 f . 

Chetwode, Roger, 277 

Chicago Daily News, 154, 352, 392 

Chicago Times, 332 

Chilton, Anne, 56 f . 

Chilton, Sir Henry, 56, 59 

Cholerton, Alfred, 206 

Churchill, Mary, 108 

Churchill, Randolph, 106, 104, 201, 243, 

Churchill, Winston S. [References to 
personal contacts are in italics], 101 ff., 
104, 10$ f., ii3f., 127, 165, 184, 241, 
243, 278 ff M 280, 339, 340, 350, 358, 381, 
389, 438; quoted, ix, 114, 393, 397 

Churchill, Mrs. Winston, 108 

Churrucca, Count Cosme, 91 f. 

Ciano, Count, 251 ff., 342 


Cockburn, Claud, 32 

Colbern, Major, 272 

Collier's, 19, 126, 321 

Cologne, 264 

Comert, Mr., 391 

Cooper, Alfred Duff, 180, 435 

Corrales, 82 

Costello, Captain, 77 f. 

Coumert, M., 154 

Coward, Noel, 3 

Cox, Geoffrey, 179 

Crawley, Aidan, 277 

Crowe, Sir Eyre, quoted: 101 f. 

Daladier, M., 159, 164 ff. 

Daly, Colonel, 261 

Davilla, General, 68 

Decres, Admiral, 400 

Delbos, M., 387 

Delmer, Sefton, 13, 19, 28 , 31, 33, 49, 51 

Del Vayo, Seiior, 50 

Denny, Harold, 200, 205, 291, 302, 306 f. 

Denny, Jean, 205 

Desmond, Florence, 426 

Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitvng, 138, 149 

Deutsches Haus, Prague, 122 

Deutsches Nachrichten Euro, 342 

Dietrich, Dr., 143 f., 149 

Dircksen, Dr. von, 149 

Dlugoszowski, General, 253 

Don Carlos, Pretender to Spanish Throne, 

Douglas-Home, Lady Margaret, 402 

Dover, x, 427 

Drago, Prince and Princess del, 251 ff. 

Dufferin, Lord Basil, 360, 422, 424 

Dunkirk, 359 

Dupree, Tom, 57 

Duranty, Walter, 205 

Eden, Anthony, in, 127 

Eger, 157 

Egg, The, 435 

Ekkinas, 287 

"Eleventh Hour, The," 99 

Elisenvaara, 313 

"England's Years of Danger," 400 

Erkko, Mr., 327 

Escorial, 37 

Feathered World, The, 435 
Feversham, Lord, 127 
"Fifth Column, The," 30 


Fleischer, Fran, 142, 146 

Florida, Count, 72 

Flower, H. A., 429 

Fontainebleau, 255 

Fontanges, Madame de, 153 

Forbes, Lord, 270 

Franco, General, 3, 13, 27, 40, 56 ff., 62 ff., 

72, 74 f., 112 

Franklin, Sydney, 31, 35, 49 f. 
Frischauer, Paul, 400; quoted, 401 
Fuller, Colonel, 373 

Gal, General, 42 ff., 194, 200 

Gallagher, O'Dowd, 429 

Gellhorn, Martha, 19, 29, 32 f., 124^., 240, 

321; quoted, 335 

German Army, Mobilization of, 133 
"Germany Puts the Clock Back," 137 
Gestapo (German Secret Police), 342 
Giion, 70, 84, 93 f . 
Gilbert, Prentiss, 143 
Godesberg, 166, 181, 183 
Goebbels, Dr. Joseph Paul, 140, 150, 153, 

161, 178, 347, 386, 431, 434 
Goering, Hermann, 145, 150, 153, 162, 

182, 259 

Gonzalles, Ricardo, 93 
Goodman, Mr. (Consul), 61 
Gorrell, Hank, 19 
G.P.U. (Russian Secret Police), 196, 200, 

210 ff., 216 ff., 221 ff., 228 ff. 
Grankulla, 320 
Gravesend, 417 
Griffiss, Captain, 7 
Guadalajara, 3 f., 7, 13, 26, 37, 64 
Guardarrama, 37 ff. 
Guernica, 65, 69 
Gunther, John, 274; quoted, 103, 238 

Hadley, W. W n 119 

Haldane, Prof. J. B. S., 21 ff., 34 

Halifax, Lord, 101 ff., 241, 362 

Hango, 285 f., 329, 331 f. 

Harbersbirk, 156 

Harmsworth, Hon. Esmond (now Lord 

Rothermere), 337, 359 4 ! 5 f - 4 2 3 
Harper's Bazaar, 4, 435 
Hartrich, Ed., 312 f. 
Haw-Haw, Lord, 275 
Hayne, Frank, 221 ff., 224 ff., 227 ff n 321, 

3 2 9 

Healy, Tom, 373 f., 376 ff. 
Heidrich, Herr, 150 


Helsinki, 280, 284 ff., 288 ff., 304, 313, 
3i8ff., 325 ff., 331 f. 

Helsinkius, Miss, 324 

Hemingway, Ernest, 19, 30 f n 33 f^ 38; 
quoted, 30 

Hendaye, 58, 93 

Henderson, Sir Nevile, 143, 242, 257, 259 

Henlein, Konrad, 116, 118, 120 ff., 151, 
158 ff.; quoted, 160 

Herbst, Josephine, 19, 30 

Herriot, M., 389 

Hess, Rudolf, 150 

Hesse, Prince Philip of, 344 

Himmler, Heinrich, 104, 150, 153 

Hindus, Maurice, 171 

Hintzinger, Major, i78f. 

Hitler, Adolf [References to personal 
contacts and encounters in italics], 57, 
62, 74, 102 f., 109, niff., n6ff., 121, 
127 f., 134 f., 137, 139 ff., 143 ff., 147 f., 
154, 158, i6off., i66ff., 178 f., iSiff., 
194, 214, 219, 237, 242, 251 f., 260, 274, 
337, 345 ff., 349, 386, 399 f., 430; Carls- 
bad speech, 177; Mein Kampf (quoted), 
397; Nuremberg speech, 154 

Hitler Youth, 146 

Hohenfurt, 176 

Holburn, Jimmy, 138 

Holburn, Margaret, 187 

Horthy, Admiral, 140 

House of Commons, 101, 104, 107, 113!., 
35<>, 358 

House of Lords, 106, 112 

Howard, Peter; quoted, 106 

Hulton, Edward, 402 

Huss, Peter, 259 

Iliffe, Lord, 106 

Infiesto, 81 

International Brigades, 40 

International News Service, 19, 259 

Ironside, General, 354 

Isaacs, Rufus, 239 

Ivalo, 304 

Ivanov, Mr^ 217 

Izzard, Ralph, 

Jarrett, David, 41 f n 44 ff. 
Johnson, Dr. Samuel, 3 
Jupiter (Spanish warship), 59 
Juvenel, Bertrand de, 144 f . 


Kajaani, 292 f., 298 

Kalden, 264 

Karelian Isthmus, 291 

Kemi River, 309 

Kemsley, Lord, 106 

Kennedy, John, 6, 102 

Kennedy, Joseph, 179 

Kerr, Walter, 292, 309, 3696*. 

Kiev, 221 f. 

Kinch, Airs, (housekeeper), 359, 419, 423 

King, Harold, 381 f n 385 

Kirk, Alexander, 259 

Knickerbocker, H. R., 13, 91, 137, 154 f., 

169 if., 368, 380, 387, 390, 392, 403, 

405 ff., 427 ff. 
Kulczak, Use, 49, 51 

Labor Party, 101 

Labouchere, George, 349 

Ladoga Lake, 313, 324 

Las Rozas, 33 

"Last Days of Paris, The," 356 

Lauer, Marc, 255 

Laval, Pierre, 387 

League of Nations, xi, 112, 242, 245, 247 f. 

Le Bourget, 163, 357 

Lebrun, President, 389 

Leeper, Rex, 99 

Le Matin, 372 

Lenin, 47, 209 

Leningrad, 211 f. 

Leon, 80, 84 

Leopold, King of Belgium, 3, 358 ff. 

Leslie, Jane, 258 ff. 

Le Verdon, 390, 392 f. 

Libya, 249 

Life, 430 

LJames, 81 

Lloyd George, David, 107, 240, 340 

Locarno, 114 

Lombard, Major, 84 ff. 

Lombarte, Ignacio, no f. 

London Dauy Express, 13, 59, 98, 105, 170, 

372, 426, 429 

London Daily Mail, 84, 105, 116, 143, 151 
London Daily Mirror, 373 
London Daily Telegraph, 167, 206, 429; 

quoted, 3, 361, 362 
London Daily Worker, 32, 105 
London Evening Standard, 04, 105 f . 
London Picture Post, 402 
London Sunday Dispatch, 416 
London Sunday Express, 106, 383 


London Sunday Times, 99, 107, 116, 133 f., 
153, 186, 194, 253, 263, 319, 348, 382 

London Times, 84, 92, 105, in, 137 f n 143, 
149, 160, 187, 244, 357, 360 

Londonderry, Lady, 279 

Londonderry, Lord, 426 

Losch, Herr von, 146, 149 f. 

Louis XIV, 113 

Loyetha, Thomas, 19, 28 

Lyons, 255 

MacDonald, Ramsay, 239, 279 

MacFarlane, Colonel, 136 

Mackeson, Tony, 59 

Maclean, Fitzroy, 194, 196, 204, 206 

Madrid, 3 f., 10, 16 ff., 20 ff., 36, 50, 60, 71, 


Mafaldo, Princess, 344, 346 
Maginot Line, 275 
Maidstone, 427 
Maisky, I. M M 194, 201 
Majorca, no 
Makinen, Hugo, 303 
Malmo, 283, 332 
Malta, 249 

Mamblas, Conde de, 56 
Mandel, M., 387, 389 
Mannerheim, General, 288, 330, 346; 

quoted, 330 
Mannerheim Line, 290 f., 312 f M 318, 321, 


March of Events, 4 

Margesson, Captain David, 104, 241, 340 
Marie, Queen of Roumania, 3 
Marin, M., 387 
Marseilles, 135 
Marx, Karl, 209 
Masaryk, Jan, 179 
Masaryk, Thomas, 157, 179 
Matthews, Herbert, 19, 33 
Matusinski, M., 222, 226 
Maxwell, Mr. and Mrs. Terence, 181 
Mencken, Arthur, 430 
Mendl, Sir Charles, 136, 165, 356 
Mereworth, 359, 414, 416 
Merry del Val, Pablo, 64, 71, 90, 93 
Metcalfe, Lady Alexandra (Baba), 362 
Metcalfe, Major E. D. (Fruity), 354, 361 
Mezieres, 354 

Miller, Webb, 91, 100, 290, 338 
Mitford, Tom, 148, 152, 185, 277, 433 
Mitford, Unity Valkyrie, 148 ff n 179, 185 
Moldau River, 122 


Molotov, M., 197 

Monnet, M., 387 

Montellano, Duke and Duchess of, 91 

Morata Front, 40 f . 

Moscow, 194-207 

Moscow Daily News, 9 

Mosley, Lady Diana, 152 

Mosley Party, 148 

Mowrer, Edgar, 137 

Muggeridge, Malcolm, quoted, 125 f. 

Munck, Ebbe, 292, 300 f. 

Munich Agreement, The, 116, 133, 179^ 

183, 185, 241 
Murray, Ralph, 177 
Mussolini, Benito [Reference to personal 

interview in italics], 57, 62, 102 f., in f., 

153, 167 f., 194, 243, 245, 246$., 251, 

253 f., 341 ff ., 348 

Napoleon, 102, iizf.; quoted, 400 

Nazi Infiltration (Spain), 74 

Negoreloye, 193 f. 

NeS, Eddie, 92 

Newcastle, 126 

New York Herald-Tribune, 292, 371, 374 

New York Times, The, 19, 84, 200, 218, 


Normandie, SS, 3 

North American Newspaper Alliance, 19 
Nuremberg, 141-162 

359* 402, 

Oberplan, 172!". 
Odessa, 2276*. 

Ogilvie-Forbes, Sir George, 259, 
O'Neill, Lady (Anne), 3366% 

414, 417, 421, 423 
Ortego, Domingo, 91 
Ostia, 251 
Oviedo, 88 f . 
Oxford, Lord, 103 

Packard, Reynolds, 84, 119 

Paris, 354 ff., 366 if., 3696% 372, 374 

Paris Le Soir, 142 

Paris Moniteur, 431 

Parsons, Lady Bridget, 337 f. 

Pelso, 298 

Petain, Marshal, 386, 389 f. 

Petroff, Mr., 77 

Philby, "Kim," 84, 92 

Philip II of Spain, 113 

Picas de Evropa, 81 

PieksamakL 313 


Pitcairn, Frank, 32 

Poncet, Frangois, 143 

Post, Charles, 232 

Prague, u6n\, 119^ 155 ff., i6of^ 164, 

167 f n 177, 181, 183 
Prague Die Zeit, 121 f. 
Pravda, 307 

Price, Ward, 143, 151, 327 
Punch, 185 
Pushkin, 212 

Quaglino's, London, 166 

Ranck, T. V., 4 

Rapallo Treaty, The, 219 

Reading, Lord, 239 

Red Army, The, 217 if., 271 

Redesdale, Lord and Lady, 148 f., 153 

Reichenberg, 116 

Reinosa, 64 

Reuter's, 84, 292, 327, 381 

Reynaud, Paul, 381, 387, 389 

Ribbentrop, Herr von, in, 150, 181 

Riley, Major Lowell, 120, 168 

Rodd, Hon. F. J. R., 349 

Rogers, Mr. (of Cook's), 268, 362 

Rome, 244 ff., 269, 341-353 

Roosevelt, President Franklin D., 32, 167; 

quoted, 440 

Roque, Colonel de la, 326 
Rosalies, Ignacio, 64, 66, 68 ff . 
Rosenberg, Dr, Alfred, 145 
Rosso, Signer, 210 
Rothermere, Lord, 106 
Rotterdam, 264 f. 
Rovienemi, 291, 302, 307 f. 
Royal Air Force, x f ., 406 fF. 
Royal Oak, 59 

Ruspoli, Prince and Princess, 181 
Russian Prisoners (Spain), 77 

Saint Jean-de-Luz, 56, 92, 135 

Salamanca, 60 n% 71, 90 f. 

San Sebastian, 59 f., 74, 91 f . 

Santander, 58, 60, 64, 66 f ., 70, 73, 76, 83 

Santiago (Spanish Officer), 41, 44, 49 

Saragossa, 74 

Sauerwein, Jules, 142, 146 ff. 

Schmidt, Herr Paul, 181, 201, 204, 228 ff. 

Schulenberg, Count von der, 209 

Schuschnigg, Herr von, in 

Scott's, London, 338 

Seldes, George and Helen, 19, 33 


Seraglio, Captain, 76 


Seymour, Mrs. Henrietta, 108 

Sheean, Vincent, x, 99, 420 f . 

Sheepshanks, Richard, 84, 86, 92 

Sheffield, 126 

Siegfried Line, 162 

Silex, Dr. Karl, 138, 149, 186 

Sinclair, Sir Archibald, 408 

Slocombe, Joan, 382 

Smetana, 120 

Smythson's, London, 337 

Somme Battlefield, 134 

Sortavala, 313, 317 

Southwood, Lord, 106 

Spectator, The, 435 

"Splendid Isolation," 105 

Stalin, Josef, 204, 209, 216 ff. 

Stamp, Lord, 151 

Stanley, Lady Maureen, 257, 279 ff., 338, 

340. 435 
Stanley, Sir Oliver, 242, 257, 279 if., 338, 


Stockholm, 327 
Stolpce, 193 
Stoneman, Bill, 392 
Strasbourg, 162 
Streicher, Julius, 145 
Strempel, Herr von, 138 
Sudeten Nazi Party, 116, 151 
Sullivan, Mrs. (housekeeper), 97 f., 103 f n 

107, 167, 237, 276, 336 /., 398, 436 
Summa, 318 

Suomussalmi, 293, 208, 315 
Swinton, Lord, 104 
Sysonby, Lord, 360 

Tabor, 120, 172 

Talavero, 75 

Tanner, Mr., 328 

Tecbmsche Hochschule, Berlin, 140 

Teruel, no 

"Thirties, The," 125^ 

Thompson, Geoffrey, 57 fT., 92, 04, 90, 


Thursby, Mrs. Peter (Poppy), 337 
Tjghe, Desmond, 292, 302, 304 ff . 
Tighina, 230 
Tiraspol, 229 
Toledo, 75 
Torrelavega, 82 
Toulouse Aerodrome, 3 
Tours, 380 


Trafalgar, 113 
Tripoli, 249 
Trotsky, Lon, 218, 220 
Tukachevski, M., 218 
Tuompo, General, 293 
Turku, 283 

"Twenty-third of March Division, The," 

Ulrich, Herr, ii6ff ; , 122, 160 
Union, Franco-British, 388 f. 
United Press, The, 19, 84, 100, 119, 137, 

155. 158, 271, 200, 309, 320, 372 
Uxkull, Herbert, 309 

Vaasa, 326 

Valence, 255 

Valencia, 3 ff., 7, no 

Valladolid, 75 

Vansittard, Lady (Santa), 100 

Vansittard, Sir Robert, 99 ff., 106, 165, 

104, 201; quoted, 257, 384 
Vernon (butler), 276, 423, 425 
Vienna, in 
Viipuri, 291, 326 
Vilieneuve, Admiral, 400 
Vimy Ridge, i34f. 
Vinogradov, General, 298 
Vogue, 84, 88 

Volkische Beobachter, Der, 342 
Vorishiloff, M., 220, 321 

Waistline Front, 324 

Ward, Edward, 292, 309, 319, 326 f., 329, 

331 f., 338, 368, 381 ff., 300, 402, 420, 425 
Warnsdorf, 117 
Warsaw, 104 
Waterfield, Gordon, 381 f n 386, 392; 

quoted, 390 
Waterloo, 113 
Week, The, 167 
Werth, Alexander, 356 
Westminster, Loelia, Duchess of, 359f. 
Weygand, General, 361, 381, 393 
"What Happened to France?" 390 
"While England Slept," 107 
Whitaker, John, 154, 169 ff., 341, 348 
"Why England Slept," 102 
Wiedeman, Captain Fritz, 151 
Wilhelm II, 113 

Wilhelmina, Queen of Holland, 422 
Williams, Harrison, 251 

447 INDEX 

Williams, Mona (Mrs. Harrison), 251, Woolton, Lord, 239 

345 Woolwich Docks, 417 
Willis, Jerome, 40 

Wilson, Horace, 167 Yangtse, Seizure of, 112 

Wilson, Hugh, 143 Yeats-Brown, Major, 61 

Windsor Castle, 436 f. Yezhoff, M., 217 

Winn, Anthony, 433 Young, Courtenay, 382 f. 

Wintringham, Tom, 402 Young, Gordon, 327